Privacy Rights: Seek Consent Before Posting Employees’ Photographs on the Company Website
In today’s age of social media, many or most of a company’s employees may already have their photos posted on the internet. Privacy legislation still requires an employer to seek consent, however, before posting photos of employees online.
A company website is an incredibly useful resource for attracting business, providing access to information about the company and, often, the people working for the company. Many companies in Canada post the names and photographs of key employees on their websites and other forms of social media.
Many employees already have an online presence, often through LinkedIn, a career-focused social media site, or others such as Facebook or Instagram. The climate is such that most employees would not object to having their photograph posted on their company’s website. However, some employees may object to having their photograph appear online, whether they are simply “camera shy” or have more serious concerns regarding their privacy and the ability of others to locate them online.
Federal and provincial privacy legislation (provincial legislation exists in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec) restricts and regulates the collection, use, disclosure, storage and security of personal information. A photograph identifying an employee would be considered “personal information” relating to that employee which employers are prevented from using or disclosing unless explicit or implicit consent* is provided. Photographs of employees posted by employers to attract business and customers can therefore trigger the protection of privacy legislation for employees.
Although the vast majority of employees would not object to having their photograph on a company website, employers should take the proactive step of creating a consent form with respect to the use of employee photographs. Such a form should outline the purposes for which an employee is to provide a photograph to the employer, and how that photograph may be used and disclosed by the employer. The use of a written consent form provides employees with information regarding the use of their photographs and provides employers with a measure of protection against possible future privacy complaints.
*Under the BC Personal Information Protection Act, an individual is deemed to consent to the collection, use or disclosure of personal information by an organization for a purpose if: (a) at the time the consent is deemed to be given, the purpose would be considered to be obvious to a reasonable person, and (b) the individual voluntarily provides the personal information to the organization for that purpose