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Lower Saxony: LfD issues €10.4M fine against notebooksbilliger.de for employee video monitoring without a legal basis

The Lower Saxony data protection authority ('LfD Niedersachsen') issued, on 8 January 2021, a €10.4 million fine against notebooksbilliger.de AG for video monitoring its employees for over two years without any legal basis. In particular, the LfD Niedersachsen noted that the cameras recorded workplaces, sales rooms, warehouses, and common areas, among other places, and that notebooksbilliger.de claimed that the aim of the video camera installation was to prevent and investigate criminal offences and to track the flow of goods in the warehouses. However, the LfD Niedersachsen stipulated that, in order to prevent theft, a company must first examine milder means, such as random bag checks when employees are leaving the business premises. In addition, the LfD Niedersachsen noted that video surveillance to uncover criminal offences is also only lawful if there is justified suspicion against specific persons, and that, if this is the case, it may be permissible to monitor them with cameras for a limited period of time. However, the LfD Niedersachsen highlighted that, at notebooksbilliger.de, video surveillance was neither limited to a specific period of time nor to specific employees, and that, in many cases, the recordings were saved for 60 days, which is significantly longer than necessary. In addition, the LfD Niedersachsen outlined that customers of notebooksbilliger.de were also affected by the video surveillance, as some cameras were aimed at seating in the sales area, and that the video surveillance by notebooksbilliger.de was not proportionate in these cases.

Finally, the LfD Niedersachen noted that this was the largest fine it had ever issued under the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) ('GDPR'), and that this fine is not yet legally binding. In addition, the LfD Niedersachsen stated that notebooksbilliger.de has now legally designed its video surveillance and has proven this to the LfD Niedersachsen.

You can read the press release, only in German, here.

UPDATE (14 January 2021)

Notebooksbilliger.de appeals LfD Niedersachsen fine

Notebooksbilliger.de announced, on 8 January 2020, that it had lodged an objection to the LfD Niedersachsen's €10.4 million fine for video surveillance. In particular, Notebooksbilliger highlighted that it uses cameras to track the flow of goods during the storage, sale and dispatch of high-quality IT products. Moreover, Notebooksbilliger.de outlined that in the event of missing or damaged goods, the stored records may be examined retrospectively for clues and that his procedure is standard for shipping and logistics companies. 

Furthermore, Notebooksbilliger argued that, at no point was the video system designed to monitor employee behavior or performance, and that it was not even technically equipped for it. In addition, Notebooksbilliger alleged that LfD Niedersachsen had failed to sufficiently investigate its surveillance systems.

You can read the press release, only available in German, here.

UPDATE (14 January 2021)

Bitkom issues statement criticising LfD Niedersachsen fine

Bitkom issued, on 8 January 2020, a statement criticising the LfD Niedersachsen's fine of Notebooksbilliger for being disproportionate. In addition, Bitkom stated that the fine concept agreed by the German Data Protection Conference ('DSK') has a design flaw because the turnover and not the earnings position of a company is used as the basis for assessing a fine.

You can read the statement, only available in German, here.