The case of the Peterborough perv cams


IKEA has removed hidden security cameras from its warehouse in Peterborough, England, after an employee spotted one in the ceiling void while using the toilet.

Again with the bathroom cameras, Britain?

IKEA admitted they had been in place since 2015. The company did not say when they were last used.

While some reports have suggested a link between the cameras and the vicinity with the toilets, IKEA claims they were placed there for another purpose.

“This oughtta be good,” I might have thought sarcastically as I kept reading.

In a statement, a spokesperson for IKEA told The Register: “Peterborough Distribution Centre is a large warehouse facility where forklift trucks and HGVs are in regular operation.

“In support of our health and safety policy, we have a drugs testing policy in place as per industry standards.

“The installation of the cameras in 2015 was to detect alleged activity that could have resulted in serious injury to co-workers, and to maintain a high level of safety on-site.

It wasn’t good. In fact, it was really fucking banal… although it sent me on a bit of a research trek. Surely, a company with the size and attitude of IKEA already drug-tests its workers and didn’t have to install perv-cams to catch a forklift operator on drugs?

Well, while IKEA as a whole reportedly does do routine drug testing, it doesn’t in Britain, possibly because of the OTHER surveillance-crazed power-mongers:

Employers have to have consent if they want to test for drugs. Usually this is when they have a full contractual health and safety policy, which should be in the contract or staff handbook.

Employers should:

  • limit testing to employees that need to be tested
  • ensure the tests are random
  • not single out particular employees for testing unless this is justified by the nature of their jobs

Workers can’t be made to take a drugs test but if they refuse when the employer has good grounds for testing, they may face disciplinary action.

The government has a rule about perv-cams in bathrooms, too, of course…

The corporation had a couple of responses. The first, “Investigations into this issue are ongoing,” was probably just a reflex – corporate PR flacks say “we’re conducting an investigation” the same way warehouse workers say “ow, goddamn it, my foot” and for the same reason.

Their other response was a little more interesting, but not much:

“The cameras were only ever intended to film activity in the roof space or corridors.”

I heard that one last time. Is it too much to ask for fresh and novel bullshit?1

Besides, I think I might have guessed the real answer.

I noticed in those government web pages that while drug testing is at least partially limited by employee consent,2 CCTV surveillance only needs to be announced. Given that this is Britain and spy-cams are the norm, management would only have had to issue the same kind of bland “we have cameras on the premises for your Health and Safety” that workers would have expected already, left a few cameras in plain sight elsewhere, and let the workers assume that management was limiting itself to non-pervy surveillance…

  1. For those who haven’t read the linked article yet, this story broke when an employee looked up while on the toilet and saw a red light through a gap in the suspended ceiling. A camera pointed through a vent or peephole at the hallway outside the bathroom, or at one end of the ceiling void pointing at the other, wouldn’t have been seen.
  2. In America, corporations have evolved an answer to this: make signing a consent form part of the hiring process. I’ve signed a couple. I don’t know why corporations in Britain haven’t done this; I’d guess “something something social norms,” but I don’t know enough about the social norms of the British labor market to give even that half-assed an answer.
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