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Friday, January 19, 2018

ECHR Rules Against Covert Video Surveillance of Employees

On January 9, the European Court of Human Rights found that the privacy rights of five employees of a Spanish supermarket had been violated when their employer used evidence of their participation in theft of merchandise obtained via covert video cameras to justify their firing.  In its ruling in López Ribalda v. Spain, the court based its decision largely upon the fact that while employees had been informed about the location of some video surveillance cameras, others were secretly installed without their knowledge.  Furthermore, the court found that blanket surveillance of all employees when only some were suspected, plus the employer’s apparent intention to leave the hidden cameras in place on a permanent basis, violated the principle of proportionality.  While the Spanish High Court of Justice had found the evidence of theft to have been lawfully obtained, the ECHR ruled that Spanish courts had failed to strike a fair balance between the employees’ right to privacy and the employer’s property rights.  While the employees were not awarded back pay, since their terminations were upheld, the court did grant them compensatory damages totaling €4,000.  Late in 2017 the ECHR also ruled, in Antović and Mirković v Montenegro, that video surveillance at multiple locations in the University of Montenegro, while not covert but without sufficient grounds for its installation and use, constituted an unjustified interference with the right to privacy as guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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