Spyware in the workplace

We received a number of complaints during the course of last year regarding the use of various computer programmes for the uninterrupted monitoring of employees at the workplace. In all the cases involved we were able to convince the companies concerned to adapt their practices to comply with data protection principles.

A large number of complaints concerned the secret installation of a software programme which allows round-the-clock monitoring of employees at the workplace. Such programmes infringe the privacy of the persons concerned. Employers are perfectly entitled to verify the output of their employees as well as the use of the IT equipment that is put at their disposal (PC, email, internet, etc.). However, they have no right to monitor their every move, and must respect certain rules. For example, they must inform employees clearly as to how IT equipment is meant to be used (rules of use). Furthermore, they must explain clearly that compliance will be checked and that any infringement may be sanctioned. They must also spell out what exactly is likely to be checked and how this will be done.

Apart from observing the provisions of the Data Protection Act, it is also important to abide by labour legislation which forbids, and even sanctions, the permanent and secret monitoring of the workplace.

We have instructed the companies in question to adapt their practices to bring them into line with data protection regulations and labour laws.