Surveillance

Employee monitoring software: is it legal?

For most law firms time recording constructs and the idea of annual billable hours have always meant that “productivity” could be monitored. Any of the managing partner’s typical calls to action of “you’re not billing enough” or “your time recording is down” can be justified where fee-earners have to account for every minute. Even if […]

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Facial recognition in public spaces

Live facial recognition technology or automatic facial recognition (AFR) adds another dimension to CCTV monitoring and other surveillance methods. Using biometrics (certain physical and physiological features), the technology can map facial features to identify particular individuals by matching these with a database of known faces. This technology has been in use for some years by […]

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Privacy in the workplace … or not?

The debate around workplace monitoring of employees has rumbled on for many years now; employers argue that they are entitled to analyse how their staff spend their working day whilst employees claim it impacts upon their privacy. In 2017 the European Court of Human Rights held, in the case of Bărbulescu v Romania, that the […]

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Content versus metadata

Content conundrum

The contest at the heart of the Investigatory Powers Act

After more scrutiny than probably any other piece of legislation in recent memory, the Investigatory Powers Bill received Royal Assent in November. Notwithstanding the amount of Parliamentary time spent on the 300 pages of powers and safeguards, underpinning the Act are some complex and abstractly defined (in some cases undefined) concepts. Nowhere is this more true than in the distinction the legislation tries to draw between between content and metadata.

The distinction matters because the Act applies fewer safeguards and constraints to selection and examination of metadata than to content.

The government’s position, which finds support in human rights law, is that intercepting, acquiring, processing and examining the content of a communication is more intrusive than for the “who, when, where, how” contextual data wrapped around it.

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