Workplace wearables could require new legislation

One of the biggest concerns people have with wearable devices is privacy. If you’re uploading data on yourself 24/7 to a cloud server somewhere, who’s looking at that information? Who’s storing it? Is it secure? How long will it be there for? These are questions that companies will need to be very forthcoming with in the next decade as they try and lure more than the forward thinking tech-fringe into taking up wearable devices. But what about the workplace? Technically employees don’t have the same sort of privacy rights while in the workplace, but do they deserve more protection when it comes to wearables tracking their every move?

Australian lawmakers are already looking into this, with privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim looking to encourage companies to create policies specifically designed to give workers a bit more freedom when they eventually get hooked up to the wearable network of the future.

“If it does collect personal information, the policy could also outline how that information is used, disclosed and stored,” he said via SMH.

The problems are compounded if you go into other people's homes as your job.

The problems are compounded if you go into other people’s homes as your job.

He also said that while certain parts of Australia don’t necessarily grant employees much privacy at work, they are required to be given two weeks notice before any geographic surveillance takes place. That includes letting them in on what kind of tracking, when and how long for. This sort of legislation is clearly not adequate for wearables, but as it stands, the technology would come under that surveillance umbrella – or could if challenged by an employee in a legal setting – so it’s important for new company policy to address these shortcomings.

Here in the UK, legislation is quite similar. If searches, monitoring or tracking are to take place, employees have to be notified in their employee handbook or contract. If not, the employer could face legal action. All workers have to be informed if they’re being monitored and that includes if information or data is gathered from emails and phone calls. This could theoretically apply to almost any information sent via a wearable device, so if a UK based business wants to take up the technology, it’ll need to provide¬†stipulations for monitoring before it goes ahead with anything.

In the UK too, we have the data protection act, so any data that is stored by an employer, taken from wearable devices or not, needs to be used for limited and very specific purposes. It’s also not allowed to be kept longer than is necessary, so there may be legal ramifications for not deleting data after some time has passed. That data is also not allowed to be transferred outside of the UK without “adequate protection.”

There’s a potential minefield of legal problems that could occur if suddenly offices start tracking a lot of people. Do you guys think the government needs to step in now and make something into law, or is it safe to leave it up to employers to handle it?