Working for Big Brother?

Security camera at London (Heathrow) Airport. ...

Image via Wikipedia

So, for no reason at all, I was wondering today about CCTV at work. So, I did some internet based research, and here’s what I came up with.

Apparently, the Information Commissioner has published an Employment Practices Code (Data Protection), which has a whole section on workplace monitoring (Part 3). Here are some sections I have selected at random:


“where monitoring goes beyond one individual simply watching another and involves the manual recording or any automated processing of personal information, it must be done in a way that is both lawful and fair to workers.”

“Monitoring may, to varying degrees, have an adverse impact on workers. It may intrude into their private lives, undermine respect for their correspondence or interfere with the relationship of mutual trust and confidence that should exist between them and their employer.”

“In broad terms, what the [Data Protection] Act requires is that any adverse impact on workers is justified by the benefits to the employer and others.”

“Where possible, any video or audio monitoring should be targeted at areas of particular risk and confined to areas where expectations of privacy are low. Continuous video or audio monitoring of particular individuals is only likely to be justified in rare circumstances.”

There is also a CCTV Code of Practice, and again I have selected some random paragraphs:


“When you install CCTV in a workplace, such as a shop, it is likely to capture pictures of workers, even if they are not the main subject of surveillance. If the purpose of the CCTV is solely to prevent and detect crime, then you should not use it for monitoring the amount of work done or compliance with company procedures.”

Example: You suspect that your workers are making mobile phone calls during working hours, against company policy, and you consider installing CCTV cameras on their desks to monitor them throughout the day. This would be intrusive and disproportionate. Continuous monitoring should only be used in very exceptional circumstances, for example where hazardous substances are used and failure to follow procedures would pose a serious risk to life.”

“Is CCTV limited to areas which workers would not expect to be private? CCTV should not be used in toilet areas or private offices.”

I should add to this my own advice that it is never, ever acceptable for an employer to use CCTV footage to earn money by submitting it to You’ve Been Framed! – even if the footage is as funny as this:

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