6 February, 2017
Why The ‘Smart’ Employee Trend Should Worry Us
Smart wearable technology continues to pervade every aspect of life, giving new opportunities, and dangers, for employers to abuse their workers.
When most of us think about protecting our privacy, we worry about shadowy agencies like the NSA or CIA watching our e-mails or social media posts. But while we may rightly worry about government intrusions into our privacy, we overlook how corporations can get access to data we place online. If we do ever bother to think about those corporations, our suspicion is drawn towards tech companies such as Google and Facebook.
But every company, especially the business you work for, can pose a potential threat to your privacy. Perhaps the most concerning threat to our privacy comes from the increasing distribution of wearables in the workplace. Employees need to understand why this is a problem before readily accepting a company distributed wearable and whether it is a good idea.
Wearable devices: Not just for people anymore
Wearable devices like Fitbit and smartwatches have grown more popular, and the wearable tech market could reach 411 million devices sold worth $34 billion in 2020. At the same time, corporations have begun promoting and distributing wearable devices and Fitbits to their employers. As Bloomberg notes, BP distributed more than 24,500 fitness trackers in 2015 to their workers, and “around 2,000 companies worldwide offered their staff fitness trackers in 2013, rising to 10,000 in 2014.”
There are multiple reasons for why these companies are handing out wearable devices to their workers, but a very common one is for health and safety. Companies want healthy and productive workers, especially if the company is providing health insurance. If a Fitbit can encourage exercise and other healthy activities, that means a lower insurance premium for the company.
But there are other reasons for this interest in wearables as well. As Propelics notes, auto insurance companies are providing devices which customers install in their vehicles so that the insurance companies can tell who is driving safely and thus deserves lower rates. There are also wearables that can monitor an employee’s environments, note immediate safety concerns, or even microchips that can function as a replacement for traditional ID cards.