At the end of October 2017, the Privacy Protection Authority published a guideline about the use of surveillance cameras in the workplace and within the framework of employment relations. This guideline does not come as a surprise, as a draft of it was already published last year for public comments.

The guideline refers to the National Labor Court’s judgement on the matter of Tali Issakov on issues of privacy in the workplace, which was handed down in relation to the monitoring of employees’ emails at work. In essence, the guideline relies on the judgement’s principles as a guiding practice also in relation to the installation of cameras in the workplace.

The guideline explains that it reflects the Authority’s interpretation of issues pertaining to privacy in the workplace, and that the Privacy Protection Authority will use this interpretation when exercising its authorities, including the enforcement authorities delegated to it.

The highlights of the guideline are as follows:

  • Employees have a right to privacy in the workplace.
  • Employers must examine the legitimacy of installing cameras, since there must be justifiable reasons for installing them. Among the legitimate reasons listed are protecting the safety of people present in the business, safeguarding property and contents, securing sensitive personal information and the systems used to run the business, supervising employee discipline, and ensuring quality of service.
  • Employers must conduct themselves with transparency toward their employees and define a detailed policy regarding the installation of the cameras, their purpose, and how and to what extent they are used.
  • The installation of concealed cameras and the installation of cameras in locations that are not public spaces are prohibited.
  • The materials videotaped may be used only for the purposes defined by the employer.
  • Employers must ascertain whether the installation of cameras is essential or whether there is some other way, less invasive of employees’ privacy, to achieve the objectives. Employers must also consider the placement of the cameras in a reasonable, proportionate way and in good faith.

This guideline, based on the National Labor Court’s approach that defines employees’ fundamental right to privacy in the workplace, is further evidence of the extensive attention being focused on privacy issues by both the labor courts and the regulatory authorities. In this context, the Privacy Protection Regulations (Databases) enacted this year should be mentioned, which are expected to come into effect in May 2018. These regulations will control the use of databases, including, inter alia, employers’ databases containing employees’ information.

This trend in Israel is in line with the global trend of engaging in privacy protection issues. In May 2018, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is expected to come into effect, the purpose of which is to protect the personal information of individuals residing in member states of the European Union. In addition, a judgement was recently handed down by the European Court of Human Rights in the Bărbulescu vs Romania case. It reversed an earlier ruling by the court in Romania and found that an employer who perused an employee’s private correspondence infringed on the employee’s privacy, since the employee had not known in advance about the nature and scope of the surveillance. This ruling also prescribed that employers must define a clear, logical, and reasonable policy that is transparent to their employees.