Did covert surveillance of employees under suspicion of theft breach their Article 8 right to private life?

No, held the European Court of Human Rights in López Ribalda and others v Spain.

The Grand Chamber has held by a majority of 14 to 3 that no violation of the Article 8 right to respect for private and family life had occurred. The case concerned installation of covert video surveillance in a Spanish supermarket where there was a high level of theft. The surveillance was limited to two weeks and the recordings were confined to a small group of individuals.

Not being informed in advance that they would be recorded did not violate the employees’ Article 8 right to private life. The ECHR held that employees should have a limited expectation of privacy at work on a supermarket floor and found that the employer had taken steps to confine the circulation of the recordings. It agreed with the decision of the Spanish courts that a fair balance had been struck and the intrusion was proportionate.

Three dissenting judges opined that a fair balance had not been struck and that further safeguards were needed to secure the right to respect for private life at work. They expressed concern about new technologies which make it all too easy to intrude and violate Article 8, and the need for additional safeguards.

This blogpost by Karen Jackson first appeared on Daniel Barnett’s Employment Law Bulletin on 4.11.19.