Workplace Surveillance: Your employer could be watching you

Tl;dr

IFF has prepared a public brief highlighting the impact of the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 on workplace surveillance. Technologies like CCTV cameras, location tracking and device monitoring have made it possible for employers to turn workplaces into a panopticon, and such pervasive surveillance undermines the dignity of labour and the ability of workers to unionise. We encourage you to read the brief and participate in the consultation being held by the Joint Parliamentary Committee to ensure existing power imbalances between workers and employers are not exacerbated by the Bill.

Your boss shouldn't be Big Boss

Much has been written about the exemptions provided under the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 for governmental surveillance but there is another form of surveillance which the Bill permits that we should all be worried about. Clause 13 of the Bill exempts employers from seeking consent prior to processing personal data of their employees for recruitment and termination of employment, provision of services and benefits, verification of attendance and performance assessment. With advancement in technology, employers now have the ability to continuously monitor the real time activity of their employees through CCTV cameras, location tracking, device monitoring etc. By allowing employers to track bathroom breaks, lunch breaks and meetings of employees, such technologies pose a threat to the dignity of labour and the ability of workers to unionise.

Recommendations

In order to ensure that any workplace surveillance is strictly need based, context specific and minimize intrusion into the personal lives of employees, we recommend that the following changes are made to the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019.

  1. The principles of necessity and proportionality should be included under Clause 13, PDP Bill 2019.
  2. A mandatory obligation should be imposed on the employer to consult employees and seek their views prior to processing personal data under Clause 13, PDP Bill 2019.
  3. The Data Protection Authority should be entrusted with the responsibility of issuing a Code of Practice for workplace surveillance under Clause 50, PDP Bill 2019.
  4. The Code of Practice for workplace surveillance issued by the Data Protection Authority should impose a prohibition on monitoring of any unionisation related activity and prescribe penalties for the same.
  5. Trade Union affiliation should be categorised as sensitive personal data under Clause 3(36), PDP Bill 2019.

Read the public brief and engage with the JPC

For more information, we encourge you to read our public brief on the impact of the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 on workplace surveillance. The brief highlights the impact of workplace surveillance on the fundamental right to unionise guaranteed by Article 19(1)(c) and the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed by Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. It further explains existing provisions relating to workplace surveillance under the Bill and discusses their pros and cons. Following from the earlier discussion, the brief finally recommends five changes to the Bill to ensure that the existing power imbalances between employers and employees are not exacerbated by pervasive workplace surveillance.

If you are a trade union or employee association which needs more information about the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]nternetfreedom.in. We encourage people to share this brief widely in their circles and participate in the consultation being held by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Bill. You can participate in the consultation by sending comments via email to [email protected] and [email protected] by 25 February 2020.

Important Documents:

  1. Public Brief on Impact of the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 on Workplace Surveillance (link)

The modern gig economy shouldn't come with 360 degree surveillance of workers. IFF represents all Indians affected by surveillance including workers. Support our mission by becoming an IFF member today!