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What are the Risks Involved in Sharing Video?

What are the Risks Involved in Sharing Video?

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by Ray Bernard PSP, CHS-III

Sep-Oct 2016

This question came from a security manager at a manufacturing plant, who several years ago added cameras to the facility’s security surveillance system to support safety, manufacturing and quality investigations. The new video coverage saves more than $100K each year in eliminating product run discards, has helped improve training, and has documented false injury claims—also saving money and avoiding adverse publicity.

Q: Our use of video to help our safety, manufacturing and quality functions has been highly successful, and request for video clips have grown to the point where we need to add security to handle them, or provide logons to the VMS system for limited access to specific cameras. What are the risks in sharing video that way?

A: Video-sharing risks fall into several categories: video misuse, privacy expectations and regulations, and negative company culture impacts. It is completely feasible to mitigate those risks and maintain the value that business operational use of video can provide.

Hidden Camera Usage is Complicated

Plain sight video surveillance is more common than hidden camera usage. More than a dozen state regulations exist that restrict the use of hidden cameras, and most prohibit overt or covert video recording in locations that have a normal expectation of privacy (such as restrooms, changing areas, and shower rooms). Related to hidden camera usage are “peeping Tom” regulations that include prohibitions on using cameras with long-range viewing capability being to zoom in on residential property and look inside homes and other structures. This is a topic that can be researched online. Many intelligent network cameras include capabilities for audio recording, a subject that has its own set of risks and restrictions, which will be addressed in a future column. Some states specify that “rest and relaxation areas”, such as break rooms, have an expectation of privacy. However, if employees request video surveillance for particular rooms then an employee/management approval process could be established that authorizes such surveillance. Notifications should always be provided.

Protected Concerted Activity

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRB), prohibits employer use of video cameras to monitor employee union activities, including union meetings and conversations involving union matters. Recent legal decisions have prohibited the recording of workplace marches and rallies held on or near a unionized workplace. Additionally, employers may not use video surveillance in a way that is meant to intimidate current or prospective union members.

Facility Video Surveillance Systems

Two important points require consideration regarding facility video surveillance, regardless of who will be able to access live and recorded video: notifications and restrictions on video usage.

Public Notification

It is important not just to state that video surveillance is in use, but to specifically announce that live video is not monitored unless there is close observation of video with active response at all times and not just most of the time. A specific risk is the chance of creating a false expectation of immediate security response when an incident occurs. Courts have ruled that people may make behavior decisions in the expectation of a response that differ from the decisions they would make if they knew that no response would take place. Thus in such a situation an organization can become liable for the choices that individuals make in duress situations. Signage at property and building entry points should state “Recorded video surveillance in use” rather than “Video surveillance in use” unless there is a fulltime response capability in place.

Employee Notification and Education

Notification and education should be provided to employees in their employment contract, stating that recorded video surveillance is in use except for restrooms, shower rooms, changing areas and any other areas of the facility that should be considered private areas. The employee accepts the conditions of surveillance by accepting the employment contract. However, it is also important to state the business reasons why video surveillance is in use, which would of course include safety and security for personnel within the facility.

Restrictions on Video Usage

There are many ways in which video can be misused, and examples can be found online. An internet search for “security surveillance video” (quotes included) gave over 1 million results. All personnel given access to live or recorded video, including security personnel, should receive specific training and be given written instructions that they read, understand and acknowledge with a signature. Such instructions should explain what is and is not acceptable use of surveillance video, and state what penalties for video misuse will be applied, up to and including employment termination.

The next issue’s column will address additional risks for video sharing, and provide recommendations for their risk mitigation.

Write to Ray about this column at Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities. For more information about Ray Bernard and RBCS go to or call 949-831-6788. Mr. Bernard is also a member of the Content Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council ( Follow Ray on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS

© 2016 Ray Bernard