Evolving Workplaces and Rising Worker Privateness Considerations (Half-2) – The RMLNLU Legislation Evaluate Weblog

By: Vrinda Nargas and Namrata Jeph

(This publish is the second of a two half sequence on the subject – ‘A Watchful Eye at Work: Evolving Workplaces and Rising Worker Privateness Considerations’)


Safety of 1’s id occupies a central place within the privateness area. Medical info is taken into account to be a form of information that has an inexpensive expectation of privateness.[1] Varied workplaces have necessary AIDS, medicine, and lie detector or voice exams for stress analysis. Obligatory vaccination of staff on the office and making staff undergo numerous medical testing in mild of the pandemic – temperature screening and asking staff to supply medical info relating to previous sicknesses have additionally been staff at sure office set-ups.

Within the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of governments and personal sector firms mandated the utilization of the ‘Aarogya Setu’ utility throughout the early phases of the pandemic, which adopted a centralized strategy to information assortment for contact tracing. Nonetheless, the mandate didn’t assist in garnering the belief of the staff and the general public at giant, which is undoubtedly a vital factor within the success of such contact tracing and monitoring strategies. The House Ministry, which had made it necessary for its staff to obtain the app, was fast to revise its coverage and roll again the mandate, when the extreme flaws related to the app corresponding to the gathering of extremely delicate information, got here to mild. One other instance of office surveillance will be seen in corporates’ and authorities organizations’ resolution to introduce facial recognition expertise for his or her staff for attendance functions, in addition to for measuring the temper of staff with the assistance of a “temper meter”. Whereas staff have been supplied with the selection to revoke consent, the corporate is more likely to roll out the expertise throughout all its workplaces, which raises questions on employees’ autonomy and privateness. Nonetheless, earlier than adopting such measures, it will be important that organizations consider and adequately talk the need of such measures to the affected stakeholders, and likewise keep in mind any various measures that are much less intrusive and can be utilized to realize the identical goal.


At current, there isn’t any consolidated labor regulation regime to control office surveillance in India. Relating to private information legal guidelines such because the Data Expertise Act, 2000 (“IT Act”) and the Data Expertise (Affordable Safety Practices and Procedures and Delicate Private Information or Data) Guidelines, 2011 (“IT Guidelines”) supply some steering , though not particular not particularly relating to worker privateness. Part 43A of the IT Act and Guidelines 5 and 6 of the IT Guidelines emphasize that getting consent for private information is a should, and Sections 70B and 72A prescribe penalties and punishment in case of illegal disclosure of information. The COVID-19 pandemic has not solely led to a rise within the quantity of surveillance as a result of distant work settings however has additionally elevated the necessity for a strong mechanism to satisfactory safeguard towards the invasion of privateness of staff and their information.

Additional, as a result of COVID-19 pandemic and the evolving nature of labor, the traces between what constitutes private area and what constitutes work or office have change into blurred, thereby rising the publicity of private and delicate information and data inside organizational methods. The definition of the time period “office” is evolving, and issues that may come up as a result of distant work are the recording of additional time, the statutory cost necessities, and upkeep of information. Imprecise terminology in present legal guidelines and the dearth of a strong legislative framework that caters to the safety of staff’ privateness rights make them suspect of misuse by organizations.

Within the context of the employer-employee relationship and information privateness, one should look to the Private Information Safety Invoice, 2019 (“the Invoice”). Part 13 of the Invoice permits employers to forego acquiring consent for processing delicate private info in two conditions; one, when consent isn’t acceptable, or two, when the worker must make a disproportionate effort to acquire the consent from the worker. Further {qualifications} have been supplied when it comes to the needs for which employers can gather private information with out consent, which would come with attendance, assessing efficiency, recruitment, termination, and provision of any service or profit. This leaves a large ambition for employers to conduct surveillance, with out being topic to a lot scrutiny. The Joint Parliamentary Committee (“JPC”) in its suggestions within the Information Safety Invoice, 2021, said that the availability should be redrafted, because it confers numerous unfettered energy to the employers over their staff’ information. The JPC report emphasised that the staff will need to have an inexpensive expectation of their information being collected and processed, and solely in such circumstances would surveillance by the employer be acceptable. Nonetheless, numerous research reveal that employees’ information is captured and processed, usually to their dedication, with out giving them discover and with out their consent.

Towards this backdrop, it is very important be aware of coverage and regulatory formulations adopted to deal with office surveillance and employees’ privateness in different jurisdictions. One noteworthy instance is the European Union’s Normal Information Safety Regulation (“the GDPR”).

Whereas Article 9(1) of the GDPR prohibits the processing of private information, employers can nonetheless legally gather and course of the private information of staff if the necessities laid down beneath Article 9(2) are met. Employers can justify processing private information for finishing up obligations and exercising particular rights in employment (Artwork. 9(2)(b)) or within the public curiosity (Artwork. 9(2)(i)). As well as, the processing of such information should additionally conform to the rules set out in Article 5, together with goal limitations in addition to lawfulness, equity, and transparency. Additional, a three-pronged check laid down in Article 6(1) should be happy when the employer claims to course of information as it’s in his ‘reputable curiosity’ – that of goal, necessity, and balancing. Additional, it is very important notice that the GDPR stresses the specific consent of the worker in case of information processing.

If such a rights-based framework which supplies due regard to facets corresponding to knowledgeable consent, necessity and proportionality, and balancing of reputable pursuits of each employers and staff is adopted in India as effectively, it will assist be certain that monitoring and surveillance ways utilized by employers are utilized solely when much less pervasive strategies are usually not accessible, just for their meant goal, the digital and privateness rights of staff are given satisfactory safety, and most significantly, the affected staff are conscious of and consent to being monitored.


In current occasions, we now have witnessed an evolution in the way in which we work. Organizations have shifted to distant work at an unprecedented tempo, which has additionally expanded office surveillance. Employers are adopting novel applied sciences to observe their staff’ habits, consider their efficiency and be certain that their productiveness ranges stay excessive when they’re ‘on the clock. Nonetheless, steadily, such strategies of surveillance are pervasive, and sometimes override basic rules of knowledgeable consent and privateness of the staff. Whereas these strategies are used to handle rapid productiveness and effectivity, and may additional sign a belief deficit and a scarcity of transparency. These measures may cause tensions within the employer-employee relationship, with diminished productiveness as an end result in the long term, and staff may devise strategies to sport the system and evade surveillance.

As a result of pandemic, there was a shift within the economic system and the labor market. Whereas in sure sectors and circumstances, employees can leverage their calls for and have entry to alternate job alternatives, it’s not the case with regards to jobs the place staff are topic to surveillance. Staff could not have the ability to withhold consent with regards to being monitored. The issue is acute, particularly for marginalized teams, low-income earners, and professions marked with low social mobility. The steadiness of energy seems to be titled in favor of the employer, even when seen from the angle of distant work.

The extent of safety afforded to staff’ information beneath the current legislative framework in India seems largely insufficient. Whereas employers can have entry to staff’ information for reputable causes, these should be correctly justified and the gathering and processing of information should not be at the price of the privateness rights of the latter. If the ability within the fingers of employers and organizations is left unchecked, the ability imbalance between employers and staff is simply more likely to develop.

[1] Tomczak DL and Behrend TS, ‘Digital Surveillance and Privateness’ in Richard N Landers (ed), The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Worker Habits (Cambridge College Press 2019)

(Vrinda and Namrata are regulation undergraduates at Nationwide Legislation College Jodhpur. The writer(s) could also be contacted through mail at [email protected] and/ or [email protected])

Cite as: Vrinda Nargas and Namrata Jeph, ‘A Watchful Eye at Work: Evolving Workplaces and Rising Worker Privateness Considerations (Half-2)’ (The RMLNLU Legislation Evaluate Weblog26 June 2022) date of entry