Personal Data Privacy
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18. Can I install a video camera at home to monitor my domestic helper?

The PCO issued the document Monitoring and Personal Data Privacy at Work: Points to Note for Employers of Domestic Helpers in December 2004. The following provides a summary of this publication for your reference.

The use of video cameras to monitor domestic helpers' activities is in general an intrusion of privacy. Before using this monitoring method, employers must seriously consider whether it is necessary to do so, and whether there are alternative means available. In the event of a complaint made to the PCO, the alleged employers may be called upon to explain and prove the initial evidence or suspicion which justifies the use of video monitoring.

If you decide to implement video monitoring at home, you should note 3 important points: reasonableness of the monitoring practice, openness of the monitoring practice, and use and retention of video records.

a) Reasonableness of the monitoring practice

Employers should conduct the monitoring in an overt/open manner unless there are special circumstances which justify the use of covert/secret means (e.g. use of hidden "pinhole" cameras). The existence of the following situations may justify covert monitoring:

  • there is a reasonable suspicion that a child or an elderly person has suffered (or is likely to suffer) from abuse or neglect, e.g. there are signs of unexplained injuries found on the body of that person, or where abnormal behaviours are observed in the domestic helper;
  • it is highly likely that the suspected abuse occurred at home; and
  • there is no realistic alternative to obtaining evidence of these abusive acts other than by way of covert monitoring.

However, employers should note that no cameras (whether hidden or not) should capture images showing activities inside the private area where the domestic helper rests after work.

b) Openness of the monitoring practice

It is important that domestic helpers be notified of the presence of any video monitoring system in the premises where they work. This notification should not be omitted except in very exceptional situations such as to collect evidence of abuse based on reasonable suspicion. The PCO recommends that a written notification should be given instead of an oral one.

Employers are reminded that such notification does not confer upon them a legal right to adopt employee monitoring under all circumstances nor does it release them from their obligations under the Ordinance to observe the six data protection principles.

c) Use and retention of video records

Employers must ensure that video records are only used for the purposes stated in the notification given to domestic helpers or a directly related purpose, unless otherwise permitted by law.

The PCO recommends that video records which contain the personal data of domestic helpers be retained for not more than 7 days. A longer retention period may be considered if the recorded data are required for evidentiary purposes (e.g. to assist an investigation conducted by the PCO or the police).

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