Israel Limits Workplace Use of Surveillance Cameras

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By Jenny David

Sept. 12 — Surveillance cameras installed for security purposes can’t be used to monitor employees and employers must inform workers about the presence and purposes of the cameras, according to recent draft guidelines from the Israel Law, Information and Technology Authority (ILITA).

The “Surveillance Camera Use in the Workplace and in Work Relations” seeks to protect employee privacy by defining the legal use of surveillance cameras in the workplace, ILITA Legal Advisor Gili Basman Reingold told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 11. The draft is a part of a series of policy interpretations updating the implementation of Israel's 35-year-old privacy law.

Any company employing workers in Israel must be aware of the limitation for how they monitor workers with video cameras. Many major U.S. tech companies have presence in Israel, including Alphabet Inc.'s Google Inc., Apple Inc., International Business Machines Corp., and Microsoft Corp.

Cameras may legitimately be used in the workplace to protect security, property and the systems used to manage sensitive personal information and may also be used by managers, as a tool to oversee employees and the quality of service they provide to customers, the guidelines said.

However, even in permitted uses, cameras may only be installed after the employer has formulated a clear policy and detailed the goals, manner and extent of the system's use with the employees or their representatives, and communicated the information to the employees.

Limited Use of Footage

After installing the cameras, surveillance footage can't be used for any purpose other than those determined by the plan, guidelines said.

“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.

Further, cameras can't be used in private areas such as bathrooms, changing rooms and rest areas, the guidelines said. Closed circuit monitoring of workstations in non-public areas to determine if employees are using work hours for personal purposes is “disproportionate” and a violation of workers' privacy, ILITA said.

“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,” Alon Bachar, head of ILITA, said.

Surveillance Footage Is Data

Worker awareness and legal use of surveillance cameras are essential in changing worker behavior in ways desired by the employer, ILITA said.

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

“We would be pleased to have more personnel supervising privacy,” she said.

According to the draft, 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 that resigned under excessive surveillance may also be entitled to unemployment compensation, as if they were dismissed, the guidelines said.

There is also “no doubt” that the surveillance footage can be defined as data and that its collection in any medium will be considered a database under the law, ILITA said.

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 cybersecurity infrastructure will be required to protect the system and accumulated footage, who owns the property rights to the footage and whether any areas can really be considered “private” in the age of smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

Comments on the draft guidelines can be submitted by e-mail to until Nov. 6.

By Jenny David

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Donald G. Aplin at ; Jimmy H. Koo at

For More Information

Full text of the “Surveillance Camera Use in the Workplace and in Work Relations” is available, in Hebrew, at

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