Israel: Government Limits Workplace Use of Video Surveillance

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By Jenny David

Sept. 15—Surveillance cameras installed in the workplace for security purposes cannot be used to monitor employees, and employees must be notified of their presence and purpose, according to new draft guidelines issued by the Israel Law, Information and Technology Authority (ILITA).

The guidelines, the third in a series of policy “interpretations” updating procedures for implementing Israel's 35-year-old privacy law, are intended to protect employee privacy by defining the legal use of surveillance cameras in the workplace, ILITA's legal advisor Gili Basman Reingold told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 11.

Cameras may legitimately be used in the workplace to provide security and to protect property and the systems used to manage sensitive personal information, the guidelines say. They may also be used by managers as a tool to oversee employees and the quality of service they provide customers. Even in these cases, however, cameras may only be installed after the employer has formulated a clear policy; detailed the goals, manner and extent of the system's use in consultation with employees or their representatives; and communicated the policy to employees.

Use of Video Limited

Surveillance video cannot be used for any purpose other than that described in the policy.

“If the footage is being reviewed out of concern that a stranger entered the premises, and a worker is seen in the background taking an unauthorized break, the footage cannot be used against the worker,” Reingold said.

Neither may cameras be used in private areas, such as bathrooms, changing rooms and rest areas, according to the guidelines, which also call closed-circuit monitoring of workstations in areas not used by the public to determine if employees are using work hours for personal purposes “disproportionate” and a violation of workers' privacy.

Under any other conditions, the guidelines say, a worker “would not be able to enjoy himself or for a moment of grace feel free to express himself without being judged by external observation.”

These surveillance restrictions should actually benefit employers by maintaining employee morale, according to the government.

“Research shows that excessive use of surveillance cameras significantly impairs employee satisfaction, causes feelings of anxiety and depression and leads them to take excessive sick leave and resign,” ILITA head Alon Bachar said.

Worker Awareness Called Key

Worker awareness of the cameras and their legal use is key not only to changing worker behavior in ways desired by the employer, but also to enforcement, ILITA said.

“An essential part of regulation in this field is for people and organizations to take our instructions and act on them,” ILITA head of strategic relations Limor Schmerling said, noting that the authority employs only 10 inspectors for operational supervision nationwide.

“We would be pleased to have more personnel supervising privacy,” Schmerling said, but also “rely on the public to file complaints.”

According to the draft guidelines, excessive use of tracking technologies could expose employers to administrative and criminal sanctions, as well as civil suits, for breach of Israel's Privacy Protection Law. Employees who resign under conditions of excessive surveillance may also be entitled to unemployment compensation for constructive discharge, the guidelines say.

There is also “no doubt,” ILITA said, that surveillance video can be defined as “data” and its collection a “database” under the law.

Unanswered Questions

Large Israeli employers have already raised a number of issues not covered by the guidelines, according to the Manufacturers Association of Israel. These include whether the guidelines will be applied to the defense establishment, what cyber-security infrastructure will be required to protect the system and accumulated video, who owns the property rights to the video and whether any areas can really be considered “private” in the age of smartphones, tablets and other portable devices.

Comments on the draft guidelines can be submitted by email to until Nov. 6.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jenny David in Jerusalem at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

For more information on Israeli HR law and regulation, see the Israel primer.

The draft guidelines on “Surveillance Camera Use in the Workplace and in Work Relations” are available in Hebrew here.

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