MediaMarkt busted for spying on employees

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The Dutch Data Protection Authority (CBP) has concluded after investigation that the company Media Markt filmed staff covertly, which is against the law.

The CBP received various signals from the media and people involved in the spring of 2013, on the use of (covert) camera observations by Media Markt. The privacy regulator decided to launch an investigation.

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Media Markt deployed "mystery shoppers" with hidden cameras in different locations to film staff as part of a training. The staff would then be confronted as a group with these images. Media Markt management also addressed staff members on their performance, based on camera footage from security cameras. This also became evident from the investigation. The concern also handled a complaint the same way, through camera images.

It is a violation of the law to address staff or deal with complaints, using surveillance cameras. CBP will now assess whether it needs to impose  sanctioning measures.

Following the result of the CBP investigation, Media Markt established a policy for the use of camera images. Establishments may still use covert camera recordings, but only under certain conditions. However, this policy is also in conflict with the law because there is no legal basis for the use of mystery shoppers with hidden cameras. Achieving a greater learning effect for employees can be achieved through less restrictive means.

An employer may only use a hidden camera under strict conditions, such as when there is a lot of theft or fraud. Other efforts by the employer should have proven ineffective, and the surveillance should be temporary.

An employee has the right to protect his privacy, even in the workplace. Checking the performance of employees by means of surveillance cameras can be profound and have major consequences for employees, who are financially depending on their employer. In such a relationship there can be no such thing as a "blank" permission for covert camera observations.