On October 17, 2017, the Privacy Protection Authority (previously, the Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority (“ILITA”)) published the Databases Registrar’s guideline regarding the use of surveillance cameras at the workplace and in the framework of employment relations.
The purpose of the guideline is to clarify the Registrar’s position in cases in which security cameras are used in the context of employment relations, either in public areas or at other workplaces that are not in the “public domain” and are not open to the general public. The Authority reiterates that an employee has a sphere of privacy that also exists while at work as well as on platforms provided to the employee by the employer – such as in the case of personal correspondence on a computer that was allocated for work.
Cameras must be used proportionately and in a manner that respects the employee’s privacy. The cameras must be used for legitimate purposes, such as keeping employees safe, disciplinary supervision, assuring quality of service or protecting business property. Exaggerated use of cameras in a manner that disproportionately prejudices an employee will expose employers to administrative, criminal and civil sanctions and may even constitute a circumstance by which an employee can resign and be deemed as having been terminated by the employer (thus, entitling him to severance payments).
The employer is required to formulate a clear and detailed policy regarding the manner, scope and objectives of the use of cameras and the employees must be informed of such policy, which, to the extent possible shall be formulated after consulting therewith. It shall be reiterated that it is prohibited to photograph an employee without his knowledge. Employees must also be informed of the installation of hidden cameras in public areas that are open to the general public. The use of hidden cameras in internal areas of the workplace will only be permitted in extraordinary circumstances, such as in cases where it is suspected that an employee is committing a criminal offense which is causing damage to the employer, and even then, only in a specific manner and for a limited period of time. The employer shall be able to use cameras only for the purpose for which they were installed, and shall not, for example, be permitted to use security cameras for disciplinary purposes.
As to the cameras’ location – it goes without saying that they cannot be installed in bathrooms and changing rooms. Additionally, they cannot be installed in work areas which are not freely accessible to the public, in offices, in rest areas (i.e., a kitchenette or dining hall), or at any work station where only ordinary office work is performed. The installation of cameras will be more justified in workspaces that are closed to the public where work that is not routine office activity is performed, such as production lines or server rooms. As a rule, public areas are not considered private domain and in such areas, photography will be more legitimate.
Additional criteria which should be considered when designing a camera system and the use thereof are the area of coverage, the number of cameras, the resolution of the image, the time of the photography and how long the recordings are kept. As mentioned, any use of cameras must be reasonable, proportionate and fair.
If and to the extent you are installing cameras at the workplace, we suggest that you consult with us in order to confirm that you are complying with the provisions of the guideline and in order to examine the need to formulate a workplace policy regarding this matter.
This memorandum contains general information only and does not constitute legal advice nor does it replace legal advice. This memorandum is provided as a service to our clients and it is clarified that it is necessary to separately discuss the merits of any specific matter.
Adv. Hadas Raccah Dvir, Head of Labor Law Department
Adv. Nir Feinberg, Head of Cyber Security, Data Protection and Privacy Practice