Wearable Devices in the Workplace Challenge Data Security and Privacy

by Mintz Levin - Employment Matters

Wearable devices, including health and activity monitors, video and audio recorders, location trackers, and other interconnected devices in the form of watches, wristbands, glasses, rings, bracelets, belts, gloves, earrings, and shoes are being heavily promoted in the next wave of consumer electronics.

It is estimated that 90 million wearable data devices (“WDD”) will be shipped to customers in 2014. Many of these customers will bring them into the workplace, which will challenge employers to adapt employment and IT policies to these new visitors.

Corporate human resources and IT policies are not ready for this flood. WDDs present challenges to employers that are different than those they faced with smartphones and tablets. Smart employers will put policies in place now to manage the integration of WDDs into the workplace and adjust them as needs dictate. Less prepared employers will be deeply exposed to liability for data breaches, privacy and workplace discrimination complaints, and other disruptions as they try to catch up.

HR and IT policies covering WDDs should address at least the following concerns:

  • Detection – Unlike a smartphone or a tablet, WDDs may not be readily detectable by other employees. Depending upon the functions the WDD performs, this may or may not present problems for management. A personal activity monitor that records an employee’s steps may present few issues, but a WDD that can record audio and video of employee interactions with co-workers and customers invokes a host of privacy, workplace and data security, and customer relations concerns that demand management attention. Workplace policies should set out the circumstances under which various categories of devices may be used, and what notice is required to co-workers and customers when they are brought into the workplace.
  • Security – Many (and eventually most) WDDs will include wireless capability, which may challenge the security of corporate data. Physical controls and data access protocols may be compromised by employees either intentionally or inadvertently. It is unlikely that WDDs will incorporate sophisticated data security features, which means that they pose a new channel of unauthorized third-party access to corporate data systems serving the workplace without the wearer’s knowledge. Polices should address where and under what circumstances WDD wireless capability may be used.
  • Privacy – The reasonable privacy expectations of co-workers and customers are challenged when employees are able to use WDDs to record their interactions. The wearer’s expectations of privacy in the data that his WDD collects may also be inconsistent with the employer’s views about its right to monitor and record data broadcast within its workspaces. Workplace policies should address the extent to which the employer retains the right to maintain surveillance of such transmission and the purposes for which they may be used.
  • Productivity – Employers have struggled to establish the correct balance between an employee’s use of personal email or web browsing on a smartphone during working hours with an employer’s desire to accomplish the day’s work. With WDDs, this problem may only become more challenging. The employer may need to consider modifying workplace policies to address the use of company resources and company time in the pursuit of personal interests using WDDs.
  • Support – As more employees bring WDDs into the workplace, the demands upon IT departments to support them will increase. Employers need to consider whether and how they will integrate these new classes of devices into their IT environments. A simple answer may be to exclude them from IT support, but experience with smartphones has shown that this approach quickly weakens and eventually fails if there is any business reason employees can find to justify their use in the business setting.
  • Liability – Allowing WDDs in the workplace suggests at least two avenues of exposure to employer liability: liability to other employees or customers who are subjected to surveillance or recording by WDDs in the workplace and liability to the WDD-wearing employees whose personal data is collected, processed, or disclosed by the employer. Policies should address the circumstances under which interactions with third parties may be recorded. Employers also should consider how they are going to limit their employees’ expectations that data transmitted from a WDD over a company network will remain private.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Mintz Levin - Employment Matters | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Mintz Levin - Employment Matters

Mintz Levin - Employment Matters on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.