Can you make your workers wear surveillance cameras?

Can you make your workers wear surveillance cameras?

Can you make your workers wear surveillance cameras? The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia found that a chicken catching company was not justified in requiring its employees to wear surveillance cameras while at work.

The company instituted the requirement because media reports said its employees engaged in employee abuse, but stopped the same when the OIPC started its probe, reported
  • The OIPC said there was a distinction between “employee personal information” and “personal information.”
Organizations can collect, use and disclose employee personal information without employee consent.  Personal information, however, can only be collected if the individual consents and a reasonable person would consider the collection appropriate.

To constitute employee personal information, personal information must be used solely to establish, manage or terminate an employment relationship between an organization and its employee.

The OIPC decided that the data was being used, in part, to restore the company’s reputation, it was not employee personal information.
  • The employees’ agreeing to wear the cameras did not not constitute consent, whether explicit or implicit. They did not have the option of refusing to wear the cameras. They also were not told of the company’s purpose for collecting and using the personal information recorded by the cameras.
  • The use of the cameras was not reasonable. Five factors determined the reasonableness of the video surveillance – sensitivity of the personal information, the amount of personal information collected or used, the use of personal information, whether less intrusive alternatives were attempted to achieve the desired result, and the likelihood of effectiveness in achieving its purposes.
Given these measures, the OIPC decided that less intrusive options were not considered, employees were constantly being monitored, they were not notified of all uses of the personal information being collected, and the video surveillance was unlikely to be effective because it was such of poor quality – it was difficult to determine what particular individuals were doing.
  • The OIPC also said the company was not in compliance with Personal Information Protection Act because it did not even have a privacy policy in place. The company also did not conduct a privacy impact assessment before implementing the surveillance.

The OIPC concluded its report by enumerating PIPA’s conditions where video surveilance is authorized:
  • When there is a real and serious threat to personal safety or the security of property;
  • When the organization has tried all reasonable alternatives without success; and
  • When here is a reasonable prospect that the video surveillance will address those threats.

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