Google Glass: Use of wearable technology in the workplace creates the need for updated workplace policies

Wearable technology is becoming more and more present in our technologically-based society. Google Glass is “smart eyewear” featuring a small computer built into a pair of glasses. Google Glass functions much like a smartphone, but users see a visual display in their line of vision and operate the device with voice commands. The glasses provide a hands-free way to be fully connected to technology at all times.

After being in production and testing stages for over a year, Google has now made the device commercially available to the public. Wearers are able to connect to social media, take photographs with only a wink, browse the internet, and send messages all without using their hands. Other wearables are also on the horizon. Both smart-watches and wearable automatic camera clips are publicly available. While this technology may be entertaining and fun for personal use, it provides interesting challenges when such devices are brought into the workplace, and businesses should consider updating their security and personnel policies.

Though wearable technology might be the way of the future, it presents inherent risks of intrusion into the workplace. Because Google Glass has photograph and video recording capabilities, often without others being able to perceive when a photo has been taken or a recording made, use of the device in the workplace can threaten the privacy of employees, data security, or even the disclosure of trade secrets. For example, a Glass user could record other employees without their consent, record discussions at meetings, take photographs of sensitive and confidential documents or images on computer screens, or photograph proprietary information.

Software and applications on the device also carry their own risks. Because the device works much like apps for smartphones, there is a risk of third-party transmission or interception of data that can carry security risks to sensitive information. Programs not officially sanctioned by Google could have spyware or malware that could leak information to untrusted sources and impair security systems.

Several companies and organizations have already assessed the use of Glass for security purposes: Las Vegas casinos have banned use of such technology, arguing that the use can violate state wiretapping laws if a recording is made without the other party’s consent; Guantanamo Bay has banned the use of these devices after a reporter wore them to the facility; and the USAA has banned the use of Glass and other similar technology in the workplace.

Businesses should consider reworking their workplace policies and handbooks in order to account for the influx of wearable technology. Depending on your workplace, it may or may not be realistic to ban such technology outright. However, workplace rules should be in place about acceptable and unacceptable uses and should take into account the potential security threats that are involved.

Please contact CMDA to review and update your employee policies and handbooks.