Privacy faces risks in tech-infused post-COVID workplaceNews
People returning to work following the long pandemic will find an array of tech-infused gadgetry to improve workplace safety but which could pose risks for long-term personal and medical privacy.
Temperature checks, distance monitors, digital “passports,” wellness surveys and robotic cleaning and disinfection systems are being deployed in many workplaces seeking to reopen.
Tech giants and startups are offering solutions which include computer vision detection of vital signs to wearables which can offer early indications of the onset of COVID-19 and apps that keep track of health metrics.
Salesforce and IBM have partnered on a “digital health pass” to let people share their vaccination and health status on their smartphone.
Clear, a tech startup known for airport screening, has created its own health pass which is being used by organizations such as the National Hockey League and MGM Resorts.
Fitbit, the wearable tech maker recently acquired by Google, has its own “Ready for Work” program that includes daily check-ins using data from its devices.
Fitbit is equipping some 1,000 NASA employees with wearables as part of a pilot program which requires a daily log-in using various health metrics which will be tracked by the space agency.
Microsoft and insurance giant United HealthCare have deployed a Protect. Well app which includes a daily symptom screener, and Amazon has deployed a “distance assistant” in its warehouses to help employees maintain safe distances.
And a large coalition of technology firms and health organizations are working on a digital vaccination certificate, which can be used on smartphones to show evidence of inoculation for COVID-19.
With these systems, employees may face screenings even as they enter a building lobby, and monitoring in elevators, hallways and throughout the workplace.
The monitoring “blurs the line between people’s workplace and personal lives,” said Darrell West, a Brookings Institution vice president with the think tank’s Center for Technology Innovation.
“It erodes longstanding medical privacy protections for many different workers.”