Workplace Wearables Raise New Privacy Dilemmas for Staff

Posted February 13th 2017


via ReadWrite

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 wearables in the workplace on employees.

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.


Employees need to consider the implications of readily turning over their personal data to their employers. While the organization may maintain that employee tracking will be to everyone’s benefit, the worry is that the process will create scenarios where employees become like high performance workhorses. The National Basketball Association recently banned the use of wearable data during contract negotiations to protect players. Imagine if teams could point to a player’s relatively low heart rate in the fourth quarter of a past game, say that his effort was lacking, and use this as leverage in future negotiations. Similar problems could emerge in the office environment. Then there is the issue of where the data ends up. Employers may look to sell data to third parties.