Wearable technology is a type of device that is worn by a user and often includes tracking information related to their health and fitness which it can then upload to the cloud. Other wearable tech includes devices that have motion sensors and cameras to take photos and sync with your mobile devices. Wearable devices can be quite useful, but they may present a huge danger to your privacy.
So far, the market has consisted mainly of early adopter businesses assessing the technology. This large group includes Tesco, which gave armbands to workers at a distribution center in Ireland to track products, allocate jobs and measure movement within the complex, with the goal of improving efficiency and accuracy. And health insurer 'Pru Health' offers a 'Fitbug' health and fitness device to their members as a part of it's 'Vitality' program.
It seems inevitable that in the next few years more businesses will begin to explore the potential commercial uses of wearable devices or even begin offering them to their employees, business partners or consumers. In addition, the next few years will no doubt see many employees bringing their own wearable technology into the workplace, for many reasons, such as health benefits and improving productivity.
A key danger for the wearable device market is that a large amount of personal data could be collected from most of these devices. Health and fitness devices could capture extremely sensitive details about a user’s health, and then send it automatically to the cloud for processing by the vendor, who then share it with third parties for 'big data' profiling and targeted advertising.
The 'big data' example really highlights the lack of current regulation for wearable devices and gadgets. Although the analytics and profiling might benefit some of those involved, including in some cases the user, it will become difficult for consumers to keep track of how much of their private data is shared by corporations, and where it's stored. And while many users may be ready to trade their data and lose control over it in exchange for some perceived benefits. Cloud Security is another major concern, and if breached, much of your personal data could be stolen or released.
Your data's security is a very important issue. Cloud Security has been breached numerous times in the past, and If exploited, wearable devices can expose a large amount of very intimate and extensive personal data about a user, including their health, current location, and their behavior. This of course already happens with smartphones, tablets and laptops, but the scale and intrusiveness of data breaches involving wearable devices could be unprecedented.
In the long term, there are data protection reforms in the works, which in their current state include the very controversial 'right to be forgotten' and the right not to be 'profiled' without their consent. If correctly implemented, these reforms could, give users of wearable devices the right to have all their personal data deleted, and could require suppliers in the industry to ask for consent before sending their personal data to be analyzed or for predictions about their work performance, current health, location, behavior or personal preferences. Consent would need to be very specific and actively communicated to the user, so sweeping consents or burying important terms in the fine print may not be enough.
The changes are, however, still being heavily debated, with the goal of being finalized soon. In any case, they could possibly result in ongoing compliance costs for corporations in the wearable device industry.
Ultimately, as is often the case with emerging technologies, it falls to the industry to grapple with these compliance issues. Until the law catches up, device manufacturers, tech vendors and businesses that use or allow employees to use wearables need to address the legal challenges in order to exploit this new technology in a lawful way whilst realizing the potential benefits of wearable technology in business.