Return to Office—Privacy Risks

March 11, 2021

People returning to work following the pandemic may find an array of tech-infused gadgetry to improve workplace safety, but which could pose risks for long term personal and medical privacy. Temperature checks, distance monitors, digital ”passports,” wellness surveys, and robotic cleaning and disinfections systems are being deployed in many places seeking to reopen. Tech giants and start-ups are offering solutions such as computer vision detection of vital signs to wearables, which can offer early indication of onset of COVID-19, and apps that keep track of health metrics. With these systems employees may face screenings as they enter a building lobby, monitoring in elevators and hallways, and throughout the workplace. Some systems go so far as identifying people who may not spend enough time at the sink to note inadequate hand washing. The invasion of privacy that employees face is alarming. Employers face a delicate balance as they try to ensure workplace safety without intruding on privacy.