Tuesday 21 November 2017

Concern at number of firms using CCTV to spy on staff

Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Big Brother is watching you. Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes is concerned about the increasing number of employers who are spying on workers using CCTV.

Covert monitoring of employees -- with few exceptions -- was illegal and offenders using such Orwellian tactics would be prosecuted, he said, following the publication of his 2011 annual report yesterday.

"We're very hot on the subject of CCTV monitoring. It's very intrusive," he told the Irish Independent.

The case of a swimming pool worker who was illegally monitored by his employers on CCTV camera was among a record 1,161 complaints investigated by his office last year.

While more than half of the complaints were over the inability of people to access their own personal data, the illegal use of CCTV cameras was a growing concern, he said.

There were 37 complaints investigated last year over the use of CCTV cameras.

"Even where employers have sought to legitimise the use of CCTV to monitor staff by referring to it in their company handbook, the position remains that transparency and proportionality are the key points to be considered by any data controller before using CCTV," he said in the report.

Only in exceptional circumstances "of a serious nature" could an employer justify covert use of CCTV to monitor individual workers, he added.

In one complaint in October 2010 by a swimming pool administrator employed by the now defunct Westwood Swimming Ltd, in Leopardstown, south Dublin, the worker received two phone calls three months apart from his employer, who was not on site, and "who allegedly described to him what he had been doing at a particular time".

The worker was then issued two separate written warnings.

The commission found that the company breached the Data Protection Acts and the company agreed to withdraw any disciplinary action against him.


Meanwhile, the commission also found that some of Ireland's leading communications companies were still not getting the message about sending intrusive text messages.

Eircom, Vodafone, 02 and UPC were prosecuted and fined by the Dublin District Court last March for sending unsolicited marketing text messages or phone calls.

UPC pleaded guilty to 18 charges of sending unwanted text messages to four customers who had previously informed the company that they did not wish to receive marketing calls.

Politicians also came under fire for the same offence following "a large number of complaints . . . regarding unsolicited contacts by political parties or candidates for election" in 2009, Mr Hawkes wrote.

Despite writing to all parties ahead of the 2011 General Election, Mr Hawkes' office launched 25 investigations last year into such breaches.

Irish Independent

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