Using Video Recordings from Business Premises as Evidence, with Respect to Personal Data Protection

20. 6. 2016

Protection of Personal Rights

The rules for the evidence procedure within civil proceedings stipulate that evidence may be in any form, as long as it helps to determine the state of things. However, video recordings from surveillance cameras located in the business premises may be accepted as evidence only in certain circumstances, particularly if the recording was not made contrary to the obligatory legal rules on the protection of privacy, personal rights, and personal data.

In its decision the Supreme Court has determined the following: “The acceptability of such proposed evidence must always be assessed with respect to the individual circumstances of the given case.”

Furthermore, we would like focus on the specificities of business premises video recordings with respect to employees and the obligations of the employer as the personal data processor.

Statutory Obligations of the Recording Administrator

The operation of the video surveillance system with recording is considered as personal data processing subject to the personal data protection act, as the purpose of the recording is its prospective use for identification of individuals in connection with certain actions – in business premises, this typically involves theft detection. Pursuant to the personal data protection act, the video surveillance recordings – whether video, audio, or combined – are considered as “personal data” if the given person can be directly or indirectly identified based on such recording. Such recording may be used as statutory evidence within court proceedings only if the following statutory conditions are met: 1) the video surveillance may not excessively interfere with the privacy of individuals; 2) the intended purpose of a video surveillance system must be specified sufficiently; such purpose is to safeguard important, statutorily protected interests of the company, typically the protection of property against theft; 3) the video recording may be retained for the necessary period of time only; 4) the recording administrator, i.e. for example the employer, must inform the affected persons about the video surveillance system in an appropriate manner – such as by a sign installed in the room subject to surveillance (this obligation is expressly imposed on the employer by the Labour Code); 5) each person recorded by the video surveillance system must be allowed access to the data being processed, must be allowed to oppose the processing of such data etc.; 6) the most important condition for operation of video surveillance systems is their registration with the Office for Personal Data Protection.

Within civil-law relations, the privacy protection cannot be invoked in cases where the actions of an individual are not of a personal nature, which means that in such cases the consent of the employees to the video recording is not necessary. The actions of a personal nature will not be accepted as evidence. In its decision the Supreme Court has determined that conversations and video recordings of individuals recorded during the performance of their job duties, during business or any other public activity are generally not regarded as actions of a personal nature; such recording is thus acceptable as evidence in the civil proceedings.

If the employer decides to install a video surveillance system without recording in his/her business premises, the employer must keep in mind that even on-line monitoring must respect the monitored persons' right to protection of private and family life as well as the much discussed protection of personal rights, as stipulated in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms, and the Civil Code.

In case of “hidden video surveillance systems”, the situation is quite different. It should be noted that this manner of monitoring is acceptable only if there is a serious reason for it. Such reason may include the protection of life and health or, in certain circumstances, also the protection of property. However, the employer may not unreasonably interfere with the employees' rights to protection of their private and personal life, for example to monitor the employees in the changing rooms, in the toilet or at other similar places. If the employer has a serious reason as specified above and installs the hidden video surveillance system, the employer is obliged to directly inform all employees about the scope of the surveillance and the manner of its performance.

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