ICO issues warning on wearables and privacy

ICO issues warning on wearables and privacy

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has issued a warning to businesses on data protection and privacy issues related to wearable technologies such as Google Glass. Until recently, collecting personal data by wearable devices was confined to trials in within the police forces, and others with the budget for such specialist equipment, said the ICO. Recent innovation in the area of wearable technology could lead to it becoming as common as mobile phones, it said.

Writing in a blog on the subject, Andrew Paterson, senior technology officer at the ICO said: ‘We saw the UK launch of Google Glass, one of several products that are set to take processing of personal information to the next level.’ As this technology develops, people will understandably have ‘reservations about the increasing amounts of personal information’ that these products are capable of collecting and transmitting.

A number of bar owners in the US have banned Google Glass from their establishments because of concerns among customers - being filmed without prior knowledge. ‘Companies in the UK will now be considering their own response.’

Paterson went on to say: ‘If you are using a wearable technology for your own use then you are unlikely to be breaching the Act.’ The Act includes an exemption for the collection of personal data for domestic purposes. ‘If you were to one day decide that you’d like to start using this information for other purposes outside of your personal use, for example to support a local campaign or to start a business, then this exemption would no longer apply.’

Regarding organisations, Paterson said, the use of wearable technology to process personal information will ‘almost always be covered’ by the Act – i.e. businesses must process the data collected in compliance with the legislation. People must be informed about how their details are being collected and used, and only collecting information that is ‘relevant, adequate and not excessive’, with any data kept securely and deleted once it is no longer needed.

If the technology has the capability of capturing video or images then companies must address the issues raised in the ICO's CCTV Code of Practice.

‘The rise of wearable technology brings exciting new possibilities and is set to become widespread in the years ahead. But organisations must not lose sight of the fact that wearables must still operate in compliance with the law and consumers’ personal information must be looked after.’


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