‘Smile for the camera, you are being watched’. Workplace surveillance: enforcing workers’ rights


  • Alexander Fanta


  • Ella Jakubowska
  • Aida Ponce Del Castillo
  • Clément Nyaletsossi Voule
  • Birthe Dedden
  • Johannes Caspar

Organisation: European TradeUnion Institute

Room: Online 3

Timing: 14:15 - 15:30 on 29 January 2021

In recent years a worrying trend has become more and more visible. Surveillance practices have increased, with not only governments tracking their citizens (China’s social scoring system) but also with companies using increasingly affordable technology to monitor their workforce and collect their data. Video, tracking software, algorithmic management tools and biometric technologies, coupled with artificial intelligence and facial recognition, are bringing surveillance to potentially unprecedented levels. This raises numerous questions about privacy, workers’ and fundamental rights.

The panel will address these and other questions, present cases of workplace surveillance, as reported by European trade unions and look at the possible risks and consequences of workplace surveillance. Importantly, it will examine how fundamental rights can be used by workers and their representatives for better protection.

• Does GDPR article 88 provide sufficient protection, or does it have to be reviewed?
• What lessons can we learn from case law?
• What is the role of national Data Protection Authorities?


Alexander Fanta

Netzpolitik (AT)

Alexander Fanta is a Brussels-based journalist at Netzpolitik.org, a German news site that covers digital rights issues. He writes about technology and digital policy-making in the European Union. Alexander is the co-author of the study "Google, the media patron" published by the Otto Brenner foundation in Germany. He can be found on Twitter: @FantaAlexx


Ella Jakubowska


Ella leads EDRi's advocacy on biometric technologies (such as facial recognition) and is also involved the team's work on artificial intelligence and non-discrimination. She holds an interdisciplinary MSc in Human Rights, with a research focus on feminist approaches to Science & Technology. Prior to joining EDRi, Ella worked in digital business transformation.

Aida Ponce Del Castillo

European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)

Aida Ponce Del Castillo holds a PhD in Law ( ‘Doctor Europaeus’) and a Master's degree in Bioethics. Aida is a senior researcher at the Brussels based Foresight Unit of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). Her research focuses on the legal, social and regulatory issues of emerging technologies. Additionally, she is in charge of conducting foresight projects at ETUI. She is a member of the Working Party on Bio-, Nano- and Converging Technologies (BNCT) at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). @APonceETUI

Clément Nyaletsossi Voule

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly (INT)

Birthe Dedden

UNI Europa, the European services worker union (EU)

Birte Dedden is Director of the ICTS (information, communication and technology services) sector at UNI Europa, the European services worker union. UNI Europa represents 7 million service workers in 272 national trade unions and 50 countries. In her current role, Birte is leading UNI Europa’s work on AI, focusing on the impact of new technologies on workers. She is also responsible for the ICTS policies and activities regarding digital skills, social dialogue, remote work and European Works Councils. Before joining UNI Europa, Birte has worked as Parliamentary Assistant in the European Parliament working especially on the IMCO and LIBE committees. Birte holds a Master degree (Magister Artium and Maîtrise ès lettres) in comparative literature, French and philosophy, and a Master of Arts in International Politics.

Johannes Caspar

Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (DE)

Since May 2009 Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information. The lawyer received his doctorate from the University of Göttingen in 1992 with a dissertation on Jean-Jacques Rousseau's philosophy of law and state. After his habilitation in constitutional law, administrative law and legal philosophy in 1999, he worked at the German Institute for International Educational Research in Frankfurt am Main. From 2002 to 2009, he was a desk officer and later deputy head of the Scientific Service in the Schleswig-Holstein State Parliament.