State Privacy Office Guidelines Address Public, Private Video Surveillance

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By Jabeen Bhatti 

Oct. 7—Guidelines on video surveillance data protection requirements for agencies and businesses were issued by the North Rhine-Westphalia Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Sept. 22. The guidelines detail legal considerations for video surveillance using case studies in different public settings, such as at the office, in restaurants, in parking lots, in traffic and in sports complexes and were issued out of concern that surveillance rules are being violated unknowingly, according to an LDI NRW statement.

The guidelines should assist in determining whether the use of video surveillance in particular settings is in line with the law, Ulrich Lepper, head of the state privacy office, said in the statement.

“Video technology is often used without the legal requirements having been examined or even being known,” Lepper said. “When persons can be recognized, video surveillance can only be used under strict conditions.”

Constant Surveillance in the Workplace Banned

Although whether surveillance may be lawfully used in some situations is a gray area, some rules are ironclad— for example “constant surveillance in the workplace is not allowed,” Lepper said.

The number of complaints filed with the LDI NRW regarding video surveillance is increasing.

“In severe cases, I impose penalties—recently against a German company that monitored employees and customers,” Lepper said.

On July 28, the LDI NRW imposed a 54,000 euro ($69,000) fine on Essen-based car-wash company Mr. Wash for illegal video surveillance of employees and customers in 33 of its locations. LDI NRW spokesperson Niels Schroeder told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 25 that Mr. Wash “had accepted the penalty.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jabeen Bhatti in Berlin at

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

The LDI NRW guidelines are available in German at

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