Data Protection in 2017

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We all constantly create data, whether we realise it or not.

Sometimes we’re very aware that our actions create data, such as when we log in to social media or upload statistics from our latest fitness gadget. We might also create data without really thinking about it, for example when we use our credit cards, get caught on CCTV or make a phone call.Data analytics can give businesses major commercial advantages. These range from improving their internal and external processes, such as eliminating recurring delays in the supply chain, to running marketing campaigns targeting people who visit particular pages on the company’s website.

As the market for wearable tech continues to grow with no signs of slowing down, manufacturers are branching out from lifestyle and fitness gadgets to the workplace. Recently a top-four accountant, a high street bank and parts of the NHS have trialled “socio-metric badges”. The are credit card sized devices worn around the neck with a microphone for real-time voice analysis, GPS tracking, a Bluetooth sensor that picks up proximity to other workers and an accelerometer to record physical activity.

The badges are able to record who the wearer’s interactions; who they talk to, their tone of voice, the amount they interrupt, and how much they move around. The maker reported that by mining the data collected by the badges, it is possible to see how colleagues communicate with each other, whether they are anxious or calm and how this changes when they interact with colleagues, and when they are at their most productive or inefficient.

At the moment, only the people wearing the badges get to see a full set of personalised data about them, and their managers will just see aggregated anonymised data. However it isn’t unforeseeable that these badges or similar devices could become increasingly prevalent in the workplace. They are just one of the most interesting recent examples of the growing trend for wearable tech that can be used by employers, some of which are far more invasive and targeted. For example, workers on the Crossrail project have been required at times to wear headgear that can monitor them for signs of fatigue or drunkenness while they are on site.

The use of our data is currently regulated by extensive EU legislation enshrined in English law by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This year the DPA is due to be replaced by the General Data Protection Regulation, marking a tough new era in EU-wide data protection. Although it isn’t precisely clear what the data protection framework will look like after Brexit, employers or businesses will almost certainly have to comply with the GDPR or a similar English equivalent, and those that fail to get adequate measures in place risk losing out on EU trade as a result.

We advise clients on data protection issues on an individual basis and also run seminars on the topic from time to time.

To register for future events contact toby.whittacker-cook@ashtonslegal.co.uk or for individual advice contact james.tarling@ashtonslegal.co.uk or david.sloman@ashtonslegal.co.uk or call us on 01603 703070.


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