Big Brother

It really seems like Sports Direct can't catch a break. First they are raked over the coals for their policies, then their pay and working hours, and now they are in the news for a rather ham-fisted attempt to monitor wellbeing.

They aren't alone in the market of monitoring employees - I know of several people who have willingly signed up to wearable tech in return for prizes for being fit and active.

It's a growing trend, and certainly a better one than the big brother style monitoring that some businesses were forced to remove that made the news previously, though that doesn't seem to have deterred Barclays who have launched a scheme based on facilities management concerns.

Whilst the HR professional in me applauds the interest and encouragement these companies are showing in their employee's wellbeing, the data protection consultant in me cringes at the knowledge that so much of this well intentioned data can wind up unsecured, in the wrong hands, wasted or even misused.

I also wonder whether the companies, and their well-meaning HR teams, have fully thought through the privacy implications of these schemes, to fully inform the participants on the intentions, security, accessibility and future use of this data?

Questions that occur are:

  • What benefit is it to either the employee or the employer in the future?

  • How long is the data really valid for?

  • What would the disadvantages be to having so much highly personal information sitting in an HR data bank somewhere?

  • Would it potentially be used to discriminate, either positively or negatively, and would that feed into already well-documented biases?

Staff monitoring on this kind of personal level and scale feels a little too intrusive for my liking. I do believe that the upcoming changes to data protection legislation will mean a great deal more thought, transparency and communication will need to go into such schemes if they are to be more than a short-lived trend.

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