Shoot down the legal threat from camera phones — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Shoot down the legal threat from camera phones

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Cell phones with camera capabilities can expose your organization to legal problems: privacy claims, trade-secret vulnerabilities, employee theft and more.

Used inappropriately, camera phones can violate employee and customer privacy. Examples: employees taking photos of co-workers changing clothes; a dishonest cashier photographing credit cards; an employee taking a photo of a "secret" client meeting.

Your best action: Write, and consistently follow, a camera-phone policy and distribute it on a periodic basis. Beyond that, your actions will depend on your specific needs. Here are three options:

Option 1: Ban camera phones on work premises. That's the policy at automotive giants Daimler Chrysler and BMW and even camera-phone manufacturer Samsung. This approach is employer-friendly, but it could be difficult to enforce.

Option 2: Require employees and visitors to surrender camera phones before entering R&D areas or other sensitive locations. General Motors does that.

Option 3: Require employees to disable the camera function in the workplace. That approach should include a centralized camera-phone registry and a required written acknowledgment of compliance.

What should your policy say?

1. Strictly prohibit taking photographs and video, whether by camera phone or any other device, in such areas as restrooms, locker rooms and other "private" places.

2. Reiterate employees' existing nondisclosure and confidentiality obligations.

3. State the consequences of violating the policy, such as employer confiscation of the phone, appropriate disciplinary measures and your organization's intention to take legal action.

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