German Laptop Retailer Fined €10.4m Breaching GDPR by Video-Monitoring Staff

Notebook retailer AG (NBB) has been fined €10.4m by the Lower Saxony data regulation authority in Germany after being deemed guilty of violating the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by video monitoring staff over the last 24 months with sufficient legal reasoning or authorization for doing so.

The footage captured – which was of offices, warehouse areas, and other common areas for staff work and meetings – was mostly saved for 60 days. This was also deemed be be unnecessary by state commissioner for data protection in Lower Saxony, Barbara Thiel.

In the official ruling, which you can read here, Thiel said: “We are dealing with a serious case of video surveillance in the company”, says the LfD Lower Saxony, Barbara Thiel, “Companies must understand that with such intensive video surveillance they are massively violating the rights of their employees. If that were the case, companies could extend surveillance limitlessly. The employees do not have to give up their personal rights just because their employer puts them under general suspicion.”

The ruling revealed that the recording equipment had been put in place around two years with the aim of stopping preventing internal theft and reviewing the movement of product. Thiel said:  “Video surveillance is a particularly intensive encroachment on personal rights, because theoretically the entire behavior of a person can be observed and analyzed. According to the case law of the Federal Labor Court, this can mean that those affected feel the pressure to behave as inconspicuously as possible in order not to be criticized or sanctioned for deviating behavior.”

NBB, is an online and physical retail chain that provides laptops and a range of IT supplies. It is the second company to be subjected to a fine like this by the Lower Saxony data regulator. Last October 2020 a GDPR fine of €35.3m was sanctioned against fashion retailer H&M for capturing and saving video footage of staff without a legal basis or authorization.

NBB CEO Oliver Hellmold criticized the penalty, saying “At no point was the video system designed to monitor employee behavior or performance. It wasn’t even technically equipped for it. It is absurd that an authority imposes a fine of more than €10m without sufficiently investigating the matter. Apparently, an example is to be made here at the expense of our company.”