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Video Surveillance - The Hidden Camera
Video Surveillance - The Hidden Camera
Video Surveillance - The Hidden Camera
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Forwarded from: Mark Bernard
Employees do have a right to privacy and organizational policies
cannot overly favour the company without providing a balance for
For example. While working with an international organization
conducting policy compliance and penetration testing I measured
compliance with a policy that granted employees the right to privacy.
This policy stated that the top desk drawer of the employees
cubical/office was designated as private and would never be searched
(without a warrant). Additional assurances where given, included that
monitoring would not be conducted in sensitive areas such as washrooms
and changing rooms.
Based on my extensive research of our Canadian Federal Privacy
Commissionaire's investigation archives, many businesses have been
brought into focus for the over use and misuse of digital surveillance
equipment. For instance, in most cases involving the transportation
industry investigations have resulted in the removal of surveillance
camera(s). Most employee cases where based on the fact that the
business was monitoring employee productivity and that surveillance
camera had not helped to prevent theft, as the business had eluded to.
All the best,
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The Hidden Camera
...and other surveillance missteps can sour employees,
threaten your success or get you sued. These six dos and don'ts
will keep you in focus.
By Todd Datz
That's what caught the new employee's attention-water dripping from
the ceiling of her office. Why was water leaking from the ceiling, she
wondered? Taking a closer look, she didn't find the source of the
leak. Much to her surprise, what she did find was a hidden camera.
The company shouldn't have been too surprised when she filed a
That juicy (in a Court TV kind of way) incident took place a couple of
years ago, recounts an attorney whose firm defended the company after
the woman filed a wrongful termination lawsuit (the complaint was
raised as part of the suit; the attorney asked to remain anonymous).
Why was a camera secreted in the ceiling? Turns out that the company,
with the blessing of the HR director, had installed a camera in that
particular office to deter a worker suspected of stealing. It was a
nonworking (fake) camera and, originally, plainly visible. After that
employee resigned, the company remodeled the office, covering (but not
removing) the camera.
Ultimately, the company argued that it was a nonworking camera; the
suit was dismissed on other grounds. "If the camera had been working,
it might have been a different outcome," says the attorney.
CSOs have a lot of leeway when it comes to monitoring employees. After
all, companies own the computers, telephones and electronic equipment
their workers use, and have the well-established right to monitor
their usage. The same is true for video surveillance-the legal system
gives organizations the right to place cameras in every nook and
cranny of their workplaces, with the exception of areas where
employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy (bathrooms and
locker rooms, for example).
But many companies don't actually have a written policy in the
employee handbook stating that the company has the right to freely
monitor the workplace. In research conducted for this special report,
44 percent of respondents copped to having no official video
surveillance policy (see additional results from the "CSO Surveillance
and Monitoring Survey" on Page 28). And if companies aren't spelling
out their surveillance posture now, then the picture promises more
static than clarity in the near future. Digital, IP-based video
systems are beginning to make a dent in the old-line hegemony of CCTV
systems, and cameras are getting ever smaller, cheaper and more
powerful. Inattentive CSOs are sitting on ever more threatening legal
On the bright side, a little forethought can largely defuse those
dangers. "It's not rocket science," says Miles Bielec, director of
security operations at software giant SAS. "Security, in my view, is
rooted solely in common sense." Below are six tips-some dos and don'ts
that are indeed mostly common sense-that can help you navigate the
current world of video surveillance and prepare for its rapid
evolution, while avoiding any of the boneheaded moves that can undo in
a heartbeat all the goodwill you've spent years building up.
DO create a corporate surveillance policy.
This is the numero uno, smartest step toward intelligent workplace
surveillance, so it's a little surprising that so many organizations
fail to do it. A video surveillance policy might state where cameras
can be placed, as well as the fact that employees have no right to
privacy in the general working areas of a facility. It should also
make clear the disciplinary consequences that can result from
unprofessional employee actions caught on video.
"It should be short and sweet," says Jennifer Shaw, an employment
lawyer and partner at Jackson Lewis in Sacramento, Calif. "A lot of
employers go crazy being super-detailed when they don't need to be."
Shaw advises her clients to write the policy into the employee
handbook and to make sure employees have signed off on the handbook,
acknowledging that they have read and understood it.
One of the nice things a policy brings to the table is it shows that a
company has a regular, standard practice around surveillance. That's
something Connie Sadler, director of IT security at Brown University,
thinks may be lacking at universities. She's heard of cases where
supervisors have independently installed video cameras in buildings in
response to thefts, some in not so obvious places. Installing cameras
"willy-nilly," as she puts it, makes her uneasy. "The thing that
concerns me is not really even whether they're used or how, but more
what's our obligation to the community and employees in terms of what
we tell them," she says. For example, should those supervisors have to
ask permission to put up cameras? She also points out other gray
areas: What if a student steals a laptop in a workspace such as one of
the school libraries, and is caught on tape? "The student could say,
'I wasn't notified, there wasn't a policy,'" conjectures Sadler.
Sadler would love to see consistent policies at universities. "I think
people are looking for guidance. For so many things that are
regulated, we look to industry standards, reasonable application. For
video surveillance, I really don't see any reasonable standard."
But the lack of consistent policies is not confined to the halls of
academia. When asked to take a crack at estimating what percentage of
companies have policies, Shaw figures only half-an estimate that
roughly matches CSO's research. "More people are calling me wanting
information about it. Some of the calls have been from employers
who've been burned because they didn't have a policy in place," Shaw
DON'T take a once-and-done approach to communication.
When you've written a policy, don't be shy. Go ahead and shout it from
the rooftops. Putting the policy in the handbook is a start, but only
a start. (Here's an unshocking revelation: Not all employees read
their handbooks.) Sure, you can take heart from the fact that the
company is protected if an employee decides to sue for invasion of
privacy, assuming that the cameras weren't filming anything
off-limits. But why not remind employees of the policy periodically,
so you can avoid any misunderstandings or ill will if employees for
one reason or another feel like they're being watched inappropriately?
Why wait for a potentially embarrassing and expensive lawsuit?
Shaw believes that just communicating the fact that a company has a
policy can act as a deterrent to potential wrongdoers. She cites three
to four major retail clients with large distribution centers: "Once
they announced their policies, theft went down because people knew
[their companies] were watching."
DO take the time to tell employees why you use cameras.
This point goes beyond reminding workers that you have a policy,
because a little bit of sensitivity can go a long way toward
preventing employee resentment.
Explaining the reason for the cameras has proven to be a critical step
for Bielec at SAS. In 1993, the company built what's known as Building
R on its Cary, N.C., campus. A security control center was located in
the subbasement to monitor the new CCTV cameras that were being
installed around the campus in lobbies, building entry points and the
campus day care. (Before 1993, Bielec says, SAS's use of CCTV was
Bielec was pleased. But he failed to anticipate the displeasure that
spread its way through the employee ranks. Soon rumors started
floating around that there were covert cameras. Questions arose: Why
are they putting in cameras? What are they watching? Why do we need so
much surveillance? When word started getting back to Bielec, "terror
ran up and down my spine," he recalls. "I had done my best to develop
a relationship with the employees," he says, but now he worried that
he was about to take a giant step backwards.
Bielec had an inspiration. Because two sides of the control center
were glass, he decided to turn the monitor banks around, so that the
monitor screens faced outward. With this change, any SAS employee
walking by the control center can see exactly what the cameras are
being used to observe. "I told employees, come on down, you can see
what we're looking at. We can show you how [the system] works; we'll
let you play with the joysticks," he says. "That alone allayed the
What Bielec came up against was a very open, creative corporate
environment, not unlike that found on a college campus. To many
employees, the installation of cameras screamed of Big Brother
syndrome. Bielec assured employees that the system was more about
customer service (such as letting employees back in the building if
they accidentally got locked out during a smoking break), to give
employees peace of mind and to keep an eye on more places than was
otherwise humanly possible (data centers, for example).
It was a good lesson for Bielec, one he fell back on recently. After a
fire in the area of the loading dock outside SAS's production studio
(a container of linseed-soaked rags ignited in the bed of a pickup
truck), Bielec had installed a camera to monitor the racks where
solvents are stored, intending to get a better chance of catching any
accidental combustion early. The camera actually panned a little bit
into the shop area, where workers built set pieces. The workers
expressed some concern-they understood the need for the camera, but
didn't want theirs to be the only work area under surveillance. So
Bielec solved the problem by moving the camera 20 feet away, so that
it looked only at the area where the flammable materials were stored.
DON'T use dummy cameras without considering the risks.
If cameras deter theft by their mere presence, CSOs may be tempted to
nail up a few cameras that aren't activated. In CSO's survey, 23
percent of respondents said they include some fake or deactivated
cameras as part of their surveillance practice.
But are fake cameras worth the potential downsides? Douglas Durden,
manager of safety, security and asset retention at Mallory Alexander
International Logistics, thinks that often they are not. He believes
fake cameras can impart a false sense of security. "Let's say someone
is standing in front of what appears to be a camera. If a guy pulls a
gun and takes a person's wallet, you should be able to pull it up on
tape [but you can't]. Then you have to tell the person it was a fake
camera," he says.
Walter Palmer, founder and principal of PCGsolutions, a retail
loss-prevention consultancy, also advises caution. "One of the things
you have to be careful of is, do you have an obligation to provide
certain levels of security? If you don't have cameras and something
occurs or you have dummy cameras, could you be liable for negligent
security?" he asks. It depends on the circumstances, of course, but
the short answer is yes.
All things considered, Jackson Lewis's Shaw thinks, there are limited
circumstances in which fake cameras are appropriate, but generally
they do more harm than good. "They're a bad idea all around, in my
opinion," she says.
DO think long and hard before deploying hidden cameras.
The rapid evolution of camera technology-smaller cameras, better
resolution, cheaper prices-has made it easier for companies to gobble
up more and more of them. But it also opens the door for more misuse
of covert surveillance.
Last November, nurses at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles were
in a break room when, according to accounts, they spied a thin beam of
light coming from a clock. They were shocked to discover a hidden
camera with a tiny lens behind the number nine. The nurses immediately
spread the word to their colleagues; eventually they discovered a
total of 16 hidden cameras in the clocks of break rooms, a pharmacy
and a fitness center, among other locations.
In addition to the fact that the nurses hadn't been informed about the
cameras, they were also upset because some of them changed their
clothes in the break rooms. They felt that their right to privacy had
been violated. In a press release, a California Nurses Association
spokesperson said, "This is a pervasive problem throughout the
hospital that is a disgraceful violation of the legal privacy rights
of the RNs and reflects a deplorable attitude of the hospital
administration towards its caregivers."
Hospital officials defended their actions-they claimed the cameras
were installed for security reasons, that it was standard practice in
hospitals, that they had planned on informing the nurses and that the
cameras hadn't been turned on. They also noted (see the first tip)
that the nurses' employee handbook, which all must sign, states that
surveillance might be used.
Ultimately, the messy situation might have been avoided if hospital
execs had informed the nurses of their plans beforehand, explained
that the cameras were for their safety and made them overt instead of
covert. By neglecting to inform the nurses until the cameras had been
discovered, the hospital engendered suspicion and ill will among a
core group of employees.
There may still be a place for hidden cameras in a CSO's arsenal, of
course. It just makes sense to deploy them wisely.
DON'T overlook the special complications of a union workforce.
Union employees have certain contractual rights that nonunion
employees may lack. CSOs with unions in the workplace will need to
review National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rulings specifically
concerning video surveillance.
For example, the NLRB decided in the 1997 case Colgate-Palmolive Co.
that the installation of hidden cameras is a mandatory subject of
bargaining. (An employee had found a camera hidden in an air vent in a
men's restroom.) That decision was reinforced in 2003 by a federal
appeals court in National Steel Corp. v. NLRB. (The company had placed
a hidden camera in a manager's office to catch the person who was
making long-distance phone calls at night.)
More recently, in July the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia Circuit upheld a 2004 NLRB decision in a case involving
Anheuser-Busch. In 1998, the king of beers had installed hidden
cameras in work and break areas in one of its St. Louis facilities.
Sixteen employees were later disciplined (five were fired) after being
caught on tape taking lengthy breaks, sleeping, smoking pot and
urinating on a rooftop.
The court supported the NLRB, which had previously ruled that
Anheuser-Busch was at fault for not giving notice to the union before
installing the cameras (although the NLRB had also ruled that the
workers were not entitled to back pay or reinstatement). The court
sent the case back to the NLRB to determine whether the workers were
entitled to any remedies.
CSOs should also be mindful that any introduction of surveillance into
the workplace could be cause for a union grievance, according to the
Labor Research Association. A report titled "Employer Snooping: What
Rights Do Workers Really Have?" says "When a company seeks to
introduce video surveillance, monitor e-mail, conduct random searches
or other workplace surveillance policies, it is attempting to change
working conditions, according to the NLRB. As a result, the terms of
these policies are considered a 'mandatory subject' of collective
bargaining and must be negotiated with the workers' union." It goes on
to cite some examples of what a employer and union might negotiate,
including allowing workers to defend themselves against accusations
and agreeing that nonwork areas remain camera-free.
As technology progresses, bringing with it the ability to monitor the
workplace more cheaply and easily than ever before, there's a
concomitant increase in the chance that things can get messy. Taking
the time to understand all the issues-to manage your surveillance
risks-will ensure that your surveillance posture is no slouch.
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Mark E. S. Bernard, CISM, CISSP, PM,
Principal, Risk Management Services,
Phone: (506) 325-0444
Leadership Quotes by Warren Bennis:
"The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why?"
Sept 16-18th, 2005
San Diego, California