Employers who spy on their staff must let them know how and why, warns privacy watchdog

Employers should be clear with their employees about the usage of office monitoring, the UK’s privateness watchdog has warned.

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says employers should make their employees conscious of the character, extent and causes for monitoring.

It comes as new analysis commissioned by the ICO reveals that just about one in 5 individuals (19%) imagine they’ve been monitored by an employer.

Monitoring can embody monitoring calls, messages and keystrokes, taking screenshots, webcam footage or audio recordings, or utilizing specialist monitoring software program to trace exercise.

However, the ICO has in the present day revealed new steering wherein it says any monitoring should be obligatory, proportionate and respect the rights and freedoms of employees.

Emily Keaney, Deputy Commissioner of the ICO, insisted the watchdog will “take action if we believe people’s privacy is being threatened”.

“Our research shows that monitoring at work is a real cause for concern, particularly with the rise of flexible working – nobody wants to feel like their privacy is at risk, especially in their own home,” she mentioned.

“If not conducted lawfully, monitoring can have a negative impact on an employee’s wellbeing and worsen the power dynamics that already exist in the workplace.

“We need individuals to pay attention to their rights beneath knowledge safety regulation and empower them to each determine and problem intrusive practices at work.”

The new steering from the ICO – the UK’s impartial regulator for knowledge safety and data rights legal guidelines – says workers should inform employees about any office monitoring and ship it in a approach that’s “easy to understand”.

Monitoring should even have a “clearly defined purpose” and use the “least intrusive means” to realize it, in accordance with the brand new steering.

The ICO says any knowledge collected ought to be processed in step with knowledge safety legal guidelines, and ought to be made out there to employees by a Subject Access Request (SAR).

“We are urging all organisations to consider both their legal obligations and their workers’ rights before any monitoring is implemented,” Ms Keaney mentioned.

“While data protection law does not prevent monitoring, our guidance is clear that it must be necessary, proportionate and respect the rights and freedoms of workers.”

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As a part of the brand new steering, the ICO has commissioned a brand new survey which exhibits that 23% of youthful employees – these aged between 18 and 24 – imagine they’ve been monitored at work.

It is increased (25%) for these aged between 25 and 34, whereas solely 11% of older employees – these aged over 55 – imagine they’ve been monitored.

Of those that took half within the survey of round 1,000 UK adults, 70% mentioned they might discover it intrusive to be monitored by an employer.

Around a fifth (21%) mentioned they might not discover it intrusive to be monitored by an employer in any approach.

Older employees (76%) have been additionally extra more likely to discover office monitoring intrusive, in comparison with youthful individuals (60%), whereas males (22%) have been extra more likely to really feel snug with monitoring in comparison with ladies (16%).

The steering from the ICO comes following the rise in workers working from dwelling for the reason that COVID pandemic.

In May, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that greater than eight out of 10 individuals who labored from dwelling in the course of the pandemic deliberate to hold on hybrid working sooner or later.

The proportion of individuals planning to work primarily from dwelling additionally rose from 30% in April 2021 to 42% in February 2022.