Home Workplace wearables raise new privacy dilemmas for staff, firms

Workplace wearables raise new privacy dilemmas for staff, firms

With the proliferation of wearable technology, companies are increasingly finding motivation to encourage staff to don connected devices.

But on IDG’s CIO site tech writer Gary Eastwood delves into some of the worrisome privacy implications of wearbles in the workplace on employees.

Companies are increasingly pushing wearable devices on their workers. In 2013, 2,000 firms worldwide offered their employees fitness trackers, but by 2014 that number had jumped to 10,000 and continues to rise apace.

“Employees are too cavalier about the privacy implications of using corporate-provided wearables,” warns Eastwood. “Employees need to understand why this is a problem before readily accepting a company distributed wearable and whether it is a good idea.”

Companies like to hand out wearables to their workers for a number of reasons.

Health and safety is a prime motivation for getting workers geared up. Wearables at work can monitor the workplace environment to track any safety concerns.

Also employees with devices like Fitbit could be encouraged to follow healthier lifestyles, which results in lower insurance premiums for the corporation.

Do workers know they’re providing data?

However, Eastwood says that employees wearing company-provided wearables must be aware that they are providing personal data to their firms.

“The idea of the company monitoring things such as your heartbeat and location inside the workplace should be irritating, but wearables would also be monitoring what you do outside as well,” he says, potentially creating scenarios where workers are treated like high-performance workhorses. “If you are not working, then you should be exercising so your work will be better.”

Another issue for concern is the potential for where workers’ personal data might end up, with employers possibly reselling that data to other corporations.

And the fact that personal data from workers is being stored either by employers or by third parties, raises the perennial threat of security breaches and the malicious use of individual information.

“The more places your personal data is stored, the more likely that your data will be uncovered by hackers,” says Eastwood, who says personal data could be useful for corporate espionage “hackers could also obtain operational data about the corporation which would be on users’ wearables.”

He says the simplest solution to the dilemmas posed by workplace wearables may be for workers to simply refuse wearing connected technology.

However, if donning company-provided wearables is something that employees are considering, he recommends that staff find out what measures the firm is taking to limit privacy abuse both internally and from external third-parties and hackers.

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