Some employers choose to record their employees’ computer screens, either as a screenshot or a video, and accompanying phone conversations, for staff training purposes.

To help employers understand how best to proceed, France's data protection authority (the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés or CNIL) has recently published some guidance (in French), which we summarise below.

Screenshots or video?

The CNIL states that, as the use of such recordings risks becoming employee surveillance or intrusion into private matters (such as viewing personal emails or instant messaging conversations), these practices must be strictly regulated.

The CNIL regards screenshots as ‘frozen images’ of an isolated action of the employee so, in principle, cannot be coupled with recordings of phone conversations. Screenshots are pictures taken at a certain time, which may not faithfully reflect employees’ work, so are likely to be neither relevant nor proportionate. This applies regardless of the aim pursued.

However, the CNIL states that coupling audio recordings with video recordings of employees’ screens is permissible under certain conditions. This combination makes it possible to follow the actions performed by employees at their workstation without interruption, meaning the video recording reflects employees’ work more faithfully.

Combined audio and video recording

The combination of audio and video is, according to the CNIL, proportionate only when used for the sole purpose of staff training and even then should only be done according to the following rules.

1. The employee must be informed of the recording before it begins.

2. The video recording must only be of the business application relevant for the training.

3. The recording should start when the employee picks up the phone and end when they hang up.

4. The recording must be proportionate to training needs and strictly limited to what is necessary for training purposes.

5. Employees should not be trained solely from their own recordings, unless these have been anonymised.

6. Only authorised persons should be able to access the recordings and it should be possible to trace who has accessed them.

7. All other specific guarantees relating to the recording of phone conversations should be implemented.

Finally, the CNIL notes that the coupling of phone recordings with images of an employee’s actions is disproportionate when used for purposes other than staff training (ie staff evaluation or combating internal fraud). In such cases, alternative means should be used.