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Case Notes

Case Notes

This case related to Code of Practice on Human Resource Management

Case No.:2021C04

Unfair audio-recording of conversations with a subordinate by a supervisor – DPP 1 – collection of personal data

The Complaint

The Complainant was an employee of a public organisation. His supervisor met with him twice to discuss his work performance. After the meetings, the Complainant learned that the meetings were audio-recorded and was dissatisfied with his supervisor's covert actions. He thus lodged a complaint to the PCPD.


The Complainant's work performance was the subject of discussion of the meetings. The audio-record of the meetings therefore constituted the Complainant's personal data The PCPD considered that the act of audio-recording the meetings was not unlawful. However, the supervisor failed to inform the Complainant of the audio-recording arrangement prior to the meetings. This amounted to unfair collection of the Complainant's personal data and was in breach of DPP 1(2). In addition, the supervisor also failed to inform the Complainant of the purpose of collection of his personal data on or before he started to audio-record the meetings, hence violating DPP 1(3).

In response to the PCPD's advice and to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents, the organisation established written guidelines, instructing all staff collecting personal data by means of audio-recording to make it clear to those present at the time of recording that recording would be made. It also reminded the supervisor that he must follow the said guidelines in future and included this incident in its employee training materials.

Regarding the incident, the PCPD had issued a warning to the organisation, requesting it to review the relevant measures regularly and to closely monitor its employees' compliance with the said guidelines.

Lesson learnt

Surreptitiously recording a conversation without the knowledge of the data subject may be considered by the data subject as unwelcome or even intrusive to personal data privacy. Although the PDPO does not require a data user to obtain the data subject's consent before collecting his personal data, the data user must collect personal data in a fair and lawful manner. To avoid disputes, before audio-recording, the recording party should inform the data subject that the subsequent conversation will be recorded and the purpose of the recording.

(Uploaded in March 2022)

Category : Provisions/DPPs/COPs/Guidelines : Topic/Subject Matter :