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August 26, 2016

CCTV in a public change room

A client asked me:

My son belongs to Durban surf lifesaving club and they have 2 cameras in the boys’ locker room. Is this legal? He does not want to change in front of them and sometimes moves them and then gets into trouble. Please can you just give me a quick view of the law on this?

In South Africa, the right to privacy is protected both in terms of our common law and in section 14 of the Constitution.

Do companies (like Woolworths) have the right to install CCTV cameras in their shopping areas, or does this infringe on people’s rights?

In a recent High Court decision, involving Woolworths, a woman successfully sued Woolworths for damages, when she was stopped and her bag was examined (without justification) in full view of other shoppers, after a security officer at Woolworths saw what he thought was suspicious activity on the CCTV camera.
In the UK, companies need to display a sign indicating that surveillance cameras are in operation.

In SA, it seems that the general sentiment is that people don’t have a real issue relating to using CCTV when the cameras provide additional protection in public spaces against the extremely high levels of crime.

It’s very different when it comes to private places.

In certain locations, such as a public changing room, a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy. Whilst the lifesaving club has presumably installed the cameras to prevent theft, it is highly likely that the right of privacy outweighs the right of the club to conduct surveillance in a non-working environment.

In my opinion, the use of CCTV in a change room would constitute a breach of the son’s constitutional right to privacy.

It is one thing to erect a sign, giving notice to shoppers that they are under CCTV surveillance. Being informed is a key aspect to avoiding allegations of invading privacy. It is an entirely different thing to give such notice in a change room. In that environment, users have a legitimate expectation of privacy.

August 23, 2016

E-mail usage policy

Every employee has a responsibility to maintain your company’s image and to use emails in a productive manner and to avoid placing your company at risk.

To do so, you really should have an email usage policy in place, so that your employees understand that all messages distributed via your email system, even personal emails, are the property of your company. They must have no expectation of privacy in anything that they create, store, send or receive on your email system and that their emails can be monitored without prior notification, if you deem this necessary. If there is evidence that your employees are not adhering to the guidelines set out in the policy, your company reserves the right to take disciplinary action, including steps that may lead to an employee’s termination and/or legal action.

Email is a business communication tool and users are obliged to use this tool in a responsible, effective and lawful manner. Although by its nature, email seems to be less formal than other written communication, the same laws apply. Therefore, it is important that users are aware of the legal risks of emails that contain confidential or commercially sensitive information, or that may contain, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks, when you and employee can be held liable.

There are other risks: an email message may legally bind your company, contractually, in certain instances, without the proper authority being obtained, internally; email messages can carry computer viruses. If your employee sends an attachment that contains a virus, your company and the employee can be held liable; by opening emails and attachments from an unknown sender your employee may introduce a virus into the company’s  computer operations.

The policy would require the employee to use your email system for nothing other than legitimate business purposes. Therefore, the sending of personal emails, chain letters, junk mail, and jokes is prohibited.

Employees must only send emails that have content that could be displayed on a public notice board. If emails cannot be displayed publicly in their current state, they must consider rephrasing them, using other means of communication, or protecting information by using a password.

These are some of the issues that you should cover in an email user policy. Contact me if you need help in putting one together.