The Use of RFID In The Workplace Sparks Privacy Concerns
OlenderFeldman recently had the opportunity to speak with Karen Boman of Rigzone about RFID technology and workplace privacy. Although the article focuses on the oil industry, the best practices of openness and transparency are generally applicable to most workplaces. The entire article can be found here, and makes for an engaging and informative read.
RFID technology in and of itself does not pose a threat to privacy – it’s when the technology is deployed in a way not consistent with responsible privacy information security practices that RFID becomes a problem, said Aaron Messing, associate with Union, N.J.-based OlenderFeldman LLP. Messing handles privacy issues for clients that include manufacturing and e-commerce firms.
Legal issues can arise if a company is tracking its employees secretly, Messing noted, or if it places a tracking device on an employees’ property without permission.
He recommends that clients should follow basic principles of good business practices, including making employees aware they are being monitored and getting written consent.
“Openness and transparency over how data is tracked and what is being used is the best policy, as employees are typically concerned about how information on them is being used,” Messing commented. “We advise clients to limit their tracking of employees to working hours, or when that’s not feasible, they should only access the information they want to track, such as working hours.”
The clients Messing works with that use RFID typically use the technology for tracking inventory, not workers. Messing can see where RFID would have legitimate uses on an oil rig. In the case of oil rigs, RFID tracking can be a good thing in case of emergency, as RFID makes it possible to determine whether all employees have been evacuated or how evacuation plans should be formed, Messing commented.
“It really depends on what the information is being used for,” Messing commented. However, employers that don’t have legitimate reasons for tracking workers can result in loss of morale among workers or loss of workers to other companies.
Workers who have RFID lanyards or tags can leave their tags at home once the work day is over to avoid be tracked off-hours. However, employees generally don’t have a lot of rights in terms of privacy while on the job. “Since an employee is being paid to work, the expectation is that employers have a right to track employees’ activities,” said Messing. This activity can include monitoring phone conversations, computer activity, movements throughout a building and bathroom breaks.
However, companies should try to design monitoring programs that are respectful of employees.
“Companies that do things such as block personal email or certain websites and place a lot of restrictions on workers may do more harm than good, since workers don’t like feeling like they’re not trusted or working in a nanny state,” Messing commented.
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