WSJ reported on November 22, 2013, Google’s push to move Google Glass, a computerized device with an “optical head-mounted display,” into the mainstream by tapping the prescription eyewear market through VSP Global—a nationwide vision benefits provider and maker of frames and lenses. If the speed and immersion of technology over the past few years had shown us anything, it is that it will not be too long before employees are donning Google Glass on the job, putting yet another twist on technology’s impact on the workplace.
Employers continue to adjust to the influx of personal smartphones in the workplace, many adopting “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) strategies and policies. These technologies have no doubt been beneficial to businesses and workplace around the globe. The introduction of Google Glass into the workplace may have similar benefits, but the technology also could amplify many of the same challenges as other personal devices, and create new ones.
For example, employers may experience productivity losses as employees focus on their Glass eye piece and not their managers, co-workers, customers. Likewise, some businesses will need to consider whether Google Glass may contribute to a lack of attention to tasks that can create significant safety risks for workers and customers, such as for employees who drive or use machinery as a regular part of their jobs.
A popular feature of Google Glass is the ability to record audio and video. Smartphones and other devices do this already, but recording with Glass seems so much easier and become potentially less obvious overtime as we get used to seeing folks with the Glass. Of course, recording of activities and conversations in the workplace raise a number of issues. In healthcare, for instance, employees might capture protected health information with their devices, but potentially without the proper protections under HIPAA. Conversations recorded without the consent of the appropriate parties can violate the law in a number of states. Employees with regular access to sensitive financial information could easily capture a wealth of personal data, raising yet another data privacy and security risk.
The capturing of data on the Glass, even if not collected, used or safeguarded improperly, will add to the challenges businesses have to avoid spoliation of data stored in these additional repositories of potentially relevant evidence.
Only time and experience will tell what the impact of Google Glass will be in the workplace. However, as companies continue to adapt to present technologies, they should be keeping an eye on the inevitable presence of such new technologies, and avoid being caught without a strategy for reducing risks and avoidable litigation.