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COVID-19: Privacy faces risks in the workplace after technology-injected COVID

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These systems allow employees to face screening even as they enter the lobby of the building and monitor elevators, corridors, and the entire workplace.

Darrell West, vice president of the Brookings Institution’s Think Tank Innovation Center, said the surveillance “blurred the line between people’s work and personal life.”

“It erodes years of medical privacy protection for many different workers.”

Last year’s report by consumer activist group Public Citizen identified at least 50 apps and technologies released during the pandemic as “sold as workplace monitoring tools to fight Covid-19.”

According to the report, some systems have gone as far as identifying people who may not have spent enough time in front of the sink to be aware of inadequate hand washing.

“The privacy breaches faced by workers are alarming, especially given that the effectiveness of these technologies to mitigate the Covid-19 epidemic has not yet been established,” the report said.

The group stated that there are clear rules for data collection and storage and that disclosure to employees should be improved.

-Delicate balance-

Forrest Briscoe, a professor of management and organization at Pennsylvania State University, said employers face a delicate balance when trying to keep their workplaces safe without compromising privacy.

Briscoe said there were good reasons and precedents for requesting proof of vaccination. However, these can be inconsistent with medical privacy regulations that restrict corporate access to employee health data.

“We don’t want employers to have access to that information for work-related decisions,” Briscoe said.

Bisco said that many employers rely on third-party technology vendors to handle surveillance, but there are risks.

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