Employees monitored by video: Notebooksbilliger.de should pay millions

Employees monitored by video
Notebooksbilliger.de is supposed to pay millions

Strict guidelines regulate video recording at the workplace. The online retailer Notebooksbilliger.de is said to have exceeded what is permitted and is being fined a record amount. The company justifies its action and appeals.

The electronics retailer Notebooksbilliger.de is said to pay a fine of 10.4 million euros for inadmissible video surveillance of employees. Lower Saxony's data protection officer Barbara Thiel announced that the practice of the company, which is headquartered in Sarstedt near Hanover, had run for at least two years without any legal basis. Cameras would have recorded workplaces and common areas of the staff as well as warehouses and sales rooms. Customers can also be seen on recordings in waiting areas.

Notebooksbilliger.de rejected the allegations and appealed against the fine. According to Thiel, it is the highest amount imposed in their area for such a violation since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force. The company has now "legally designed" the video control. The argument of Notebooksbilliger.de that the previous system was used to track the flow of goods or to prevent possible theft does not apply from their point of view, Thiel explained.

Recordings saved for months

The measure was not limited to a shorter period of time or to specific employees or suspected criminal offenses. Before taking more comprehensive steps, "milder means" such as pocket checks would always have to be considered. In addition to online channels, Notebooksbiliger.de also operates stationary shops. Quite a few recordings are said to have been stored for more than two months.

"Video surveillance is a particularly intensive encroachment on personal rights, as it can theoretically be used to observe and analyze the entire behavior of a person," said the Lower Saxony data protection officer. "The employees do not have to give up their personal rights just because their employer puts them under general suspicion." Thiel also relied on decisions of the Federal Labor Court. And in the specific case, customers are said to have been partly recorded – for example in "seating areas that are obviously intended to invite people to linger for a longer period of time".

"Procedure is standard"

Notebooksbilliger.de considers both the reason and the fine itself to be clearly excessive. The amount is "in no relation to the size and financial strength of the company and the seriousness of the alleged violation," said boss Oliver Hellmold. "In the case of missing or damaged goods, the stored records are checked for clues, if necessary. This procedure is standard at shipping and logistics companies." Hellmold demanded that the fine must be lifted.

In addition, his company has already "cooperated closely to ensure full compliance with the GDPR, also from the point of view of the authorities". The fact that Notebooksbilliger.de should systematically monitor its employees with a camera is tantamount to an "unfounded assumption": "At no time was the video system designed to monitor the behavior of employees or their performance." The company is now represented by specialized lawyers.

René Sandor, an expert in data protection law at the corporate law firm CMS, explained that employers should not, in principle, observe their employees "in the dark". "This is especially true for areas of retreat such as common rooms. The video surveillance must certainly not be used as a precautionary deterrent because that would undermine the basis of trust in the employment relationship."

. (tagsToTranslate) Economy (t) Data protection (t) Video surveillance (t) Fine (t) GDPR