According to an Unleash IBM Smarter Workforce Institute HR Practioner survey, “84% of HR practitioners believe that HR urgently needs guidance on the fair use and privacy of new and emerging data sources in workforce analysis”. This got us thinking about the pros and cons of the implementation of GPS tracking technology both in the workplace and at home…
Over the past few months we have trawled through privacy policies and small print of some large software companies offering GPS tracking services, to both businesses and the general public.
One company that has come to our attention (who will remain unnamed) offers a tracking device, which they advertise as being applicable for tracking children, pets and the elderly. The company itself provides a variety of tracking device products, which you give to the subject you wish to monitor, allowing you to remotely access a whole host of detailed data, regarding what the subject is doing. You can see the current location of the GPS device, locate the device using augmented reality on your smartphone, set up custom geofences, which allows you to receive alerts when the subject exits/enters an area and set up proximity alerts, which creates a circle around yourself, sending you notifications if the tracking device leaves the proximity circle around you. We totally understand in some circumstances; their products are ideal. For example, it is apparent that if you are caring for an older adult, who perhaps is prone to going missing from their home, leaving their loved ones in a constant state of panic and fear; this service could prove a real stress relief. This tracking device provider will provide the parents with some worry relief, as they will feel more in control when their children are away from them. The knowledge that they can, at any point, check in on their child’s location will provide reassurance to a concerned caregiver. The subject can be tracked down using the AR feature, have restricted areas, where if they visit sends an alert to their parents’ phone, and their location can be monitored continuously. What needs to be remembered however is that this tracker will only give the parent a partial piece of mind, but at what cost…. If the subject finds out about the tracker, the loss of trust may well outweigh the value of installing the tracker in the first place.
A developing trend is emerging amongst companies onboarding technology… some employers are now insisting that employees start using GPS tracking on their personal phones, in an apparent bid to increase efficiency and reduce costs. However, we believe that employers and employees should be slightly more concerned about this progression.
One of the largest multinational timekeeping software platforms (who will again remain nameless) insists that all employees allow their mobile phone to be tracked while on shift. If the employee refuses to have their location followed or turns their location off at any time during their shift, they are unable to remain clocked in, and therefore rejected the ability to log work hours. Thus, meaning that if the employee is reliant on accurate timekeeping of their working hours, they are forced to agree to have their location tracked for the entirety of their shift. Now you may be thinking that the GPS location tracking is vague, inaccurate and infrequent. You would be wrong. The software provider in question collects a GPS location point every 3 minutes, meaning if the employee is working a regular 9-5 shift, by the time they are clocked out, the software provider will have collected 160 individual unique location points regarding the employee’s movements. The location point will be accurate to within a 300m radius. With cyber security and data exploitation and the newly introduced GDPR regulations becoming a more relevant topic of concern every day, would you feel comfortable knowing that a database possesses information regarding what you have done, where you have gone and at what time you have done it every single day that you’re at work?
One of the most alarming findings of our research was discovering that the employees were still actively tracked on their personal mobile phones during their resting periods and dinner breaks! Can you imagine tracking an employee while they go to the doctors on their break? Or picking their sick child up from school? This has the potential of opening a whole can of legal worms for employers that may now be falling foul of the new GDPR regulations, now actively enforced throughout the European Union. We also found that if the employee was working overtime, they had to clock out at the end of their shift manually. If they forget to clock out, the software continues to track the employee’s location on their personal phones, well after their scheduled shift had ended! So, who is liable here, the employer for onboarding non-GDPR compliant software, or the software provider for providing a software service, that falls foul of said regulations? Either way, in our opinion this potential legal minefield could end up being a costly acquisition for the employer.
Have we now reached a point in 2018, where GPS tracking on a personal phone has gone too far? There is an exceedingly thin line between measured, responsible surveillance and invasion of privacy. In our opinion, new legislation needs to be imposed to ensure that GPS tracking is controlled. It would be irresponsible of us to allow the progression of GPS tracking to continue at this rate. What do you think about GPS tracking? A reasonable way to monitor activity, ensuring the safety of loved ones and the efficiency of workers? Or a violation of the subject’s privacy, and a clear indication of a lack of trust from the administrator?