Are there any laws in the European Union about video conferencing and calling? I'm a teacher at a school in Spain, and I'm now forced to work from home because of COVID-19. We have been assigning work online, but now the school is demanding that we have our cameras on all day so that the pupils can see us. I feel extremely uncomfortable doing this, a bit like a zoo animal. Are there any legal protections preventing requiring me to adhere to this request?

I feel there are huge safeguarding concerns about having a live camera in your own home, which my employer is not addressing (but that's another story). The issue I have is with my privacy. There are no guarantees that pupils do not screenshot or record me, and I have no idea who else is viewing the stream in that pupil's home. I'm asking if there are legal protections for this.

  • 1
    Which country are you in? Laws can vary a lot throughout the EU. Apr 16, 2020 at 15:22
  • 3
    Pupils can see you - doing what? Seeing you when you actively teach them is something very different than seeing you when you do paperwork.
    – puck
    Apr 16, 2020 at 16:05
  • 5
    Can you leave the camera on but go to a different room between classes. Just like in a school, classroom is open but teacher is in the teachers lunge..
    – Daniel
    Apr 16, 2020 at 16:44
  • 5
    Can you clarify what you mean by "all day"? Do you follow regular school hours, or is your employer essentially asking you to be on call, sitting at the computer 24/7?
    – Llewellyn
    Apr 16, 2020 at 17:11
  • 9
    How OP didn't feel the need to provide several more crucial details is beyond me, especially since they claim to be a teacher. In its current form, this reads more like a rant than an actual question.
    – user91988
    Apr 16, 2020 at 18:38

4 Answers 4


I'm not Spanish, nor a lawyer, but really, I have to ask, FFS what is this total, and utter BS?!

Your time is your employer's time for a (daily) duration specified in your work contract.
Once that period is over, your day's over and you should feel free to shut down your machine, or at least logout and turn the webcam off.

And I'm not even going into your privacy rights, which I assume Spanish law does afford you, or the risk that if something "inappropriate", and it's such a vague, broad word, meaning different things to different people, happens, it's you who's out of a job (not your overbearing employer who forced you into the situation in the first place).

This is wayyyy too "Big Brother"-y to be comfortable.
As others said, consult your union rep, if you have one, or legal advice, even cursory, that you can get from law forums, given by lawyers trying to make a name for themselves.
No eff-ing way this is legal, and if, in some screwy way it is... you need to quit and go teach in a normal school.

  • 17
    What does "all day" mean in OP's question? I read it as "work hours" you seem to read it as "24h"
    – Jeffrey
    Nov 5, 2020 at 17:42

Frankly, I want to challenge your position on this:

Due to the current COVID crisis many, many people all over the world are thrown into new situations and have to cope with their lives being turned upside down. Many people have lost their jobs or (part of) their wages, so those of us who can work remotely should first and foremost be glad that we still have solid, paid employment.

Now that is out of the way, I of course agree that some concern for your privacy is absolutely sound. I think, however, that some leniency towards your employer and the general situation is currently called for.

As a teacher you should be well aware that there is a visual aspect to teaching and presentations which a video stream of your teaching can transport, and which an audio-only stream will be missing.

As such I think the requirement of your employer/school to provide a life-video stream of yourself during the actual teaching is sensible.

  • Of course this doesn't encompass any activities which wouldn't be "visible" to students during their normal school experience: so for grading work, research, preparation, reading, etc. I'd push back on the streaming requirement. The argument can be made that there is little benefit to be had here for the students and I agree that the additional "tax" on your privacy is not outweighed by potential benefits. If you don't already agree with your employer on this, this is a discussion you need to have.
  • Also of course there should be guidelines by the school/employer how such streamed data can be used, if recordings can be made, who will make them, where they are stored, etc. etc. This can certainly not prevent misuse, but it can dissuade people. Your employer should also have your back on this and support you in case any actual problems occur - this is another point you should take up with your employer should the mentioned guidelines not exist.

TLDR; talk to your employer, don't try to fall back on any legal arguments, this will likely just sour the conversation. Overall the requirement of video-streamed teaching is absolutely sensible given the current situation, but there should be clear rules and guidelines for you and the students to follow.

  • It seems that the questioner is okay being recorded while teaching, but not the rest of the time. Could you make your point clearer?
    – guest
    Apr 20, 2020 at 15:00

That students should see you while you are not teaching (but preparing classes, eating, correcting work) seems unreasonable. If you have a teacher's union, try to raise the issue with them. They should know if there are legal issues with this. If this does not help, you have to weigh up certain things:

  • can the boss fire you? How important is the job to you?

  • how important is it for you not to be seen while not teaching?

  • could there be legal consequences when not complying?

  • would not complying (or raising thoughts) have disadvantages for you in this job? What kind of human is the boss?

You have to weigh these points and then decide whether to comply, try to find a compromise, writing to a newspaper or not to comply altogether. If you take action, talk to your colleagues first. The demand seems pretty outrageous to me -- you might plan your action together which makes it stronger, good luck!

  • 1
    Nearly every question on this stite comes down to -can the boss fire you? How important is the job to you? It should by made clear why the camera shall be filming all the time. Apr 16, 2020 at 17:40

If when conducting in person teaching you normally have the same students all day and they can normally see you all day then there should be no issue with allowing them to virtually see you all day. By "all day" I am assuming your normal working hours. You should turn off the camera while outside of your normal working hours.

  • 4
    In a private setting the students might see more than in a well/official equipped classroom. Apr 16, 2020 at 17:38
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    If that is the case, it is up to the OP to make the necessary arrangements to "clean up" the visible area.
    – sf02
    Apr 16, 2020 at 18:23
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    Not sure why the downvotes; this is what's going on all over the world currently. If OP is expecting to teach remotely without using a camera at all, they need to get with the times.
    – user91988
    Apr 16, 2020 at 18:39
  • 3
    It's also a big difference if someone can see you, or if someone is (potentially) recording you.
    – FooTheBar
    Apr 16, 2020 at 19:50

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