If Maxwell Smart, the bumbling secret Agent 86 of the ‘60’s, could use wearable technology to save himself from the bad guys of KAOS, then so can employees. Wearable technology has moved from a televised fantasy of decades ago into our current reality, as well as into the modern workplace. And now that the data-rich wearable technology era in the workplace is in full swing, specifically identifying the privacy and ethical implications for businesses is an emerging area for legal challenges.
Even though Maxwell Smart’s famous shoe phone never quite took off, the wearable technology of today is expanding in many forms, embedded into watches, eyeglasses, or even woven into clothing. And as wearable technology becomes more commonplace, utilizing it for data analysis and feedback to improve workplace performance is likely to be an ever-growing trend.
In light of this increasing popularity, employers are placed in the precarious position of utilizing technology to increase profitability while meeting obligations to preserve employee privacy. The arising issues are more complex than a simple balancing of the employee’s interests. Management has legitimate concerns about employees utilizing wearable technology surreptitiously to record disciplinary meetings, create evidence for alleged harassment claims or take covert photographs or videos of proprietary or confidential information. Notwithstanding evolving management challenges, employees as well have legitimate concerns arising from wearable technology in the workplace. For instance, can an employer give an employee an activity tracker as part of a wellness program and demand access to the data.
Management and human resources, need to work with competent counsel to ensure all employee policies are updated to take wearable technology into account. Companies should also be aware and vigilant to avoid covert recording and harassment allegations.