Developed by Knightscope, the K5 Autonomous Data Machine is a 5 foot tall, 300 pound robotic device designed to be “a safety and security tool for corporations, as well as for schools and neighborhoods,” as reported by the New York Times. While K5 may not yet be ready for prime time, its developers are hoping to lure early adopters at “technology companies that employ large security forces to protect their sprawling campuses.” Eventually, K5 could be used to roam city streets, schools, shopping centers, and, yes, workplaces.

According to the Times, K5 will be equipped with a “video camera, thermal imaging sensors, a laser range finder, radar, air quality sensors and a microphone.” The stated mission of the developers is to reduce crime by 50%. They explain that data collected through K5’s sensors is “processed through our predictive analytics engine, combined with existing business, government and crowdsourced social data sets, and subsequently assigned an alert level that determines when the community and the authorities should be notified of a concern.” It is not a stretch to think that the device’s capabilities could be modified to address different applications.

Some are raising concerns that this and similar devices will take jobs away from the private security guard industry. Others believe K-5 will only add to “big brother”-type surveillance that continues to erode personal privacy. Just this week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a substantial increase in surveillance cameras to be installed in some of the City’s public housing developments. In many settings, concerns about security are winning over concerns about privacy. Consider the assisted living, nursing home business where patient and resident abuse is driving a greater need for security at the expense of privacy and despite the need for added compliance measures under HIPAA.

K5 raises additional issues for the workplace. Having K-5 roaming around retail space, office space, common areas and so on, even if only intended to address security concerns of the business, could trigger a number of unintended consequences for employers and their employees. K-5 might capture evidence of employee negligence in connection with treatment of customers or patients. Capable of audio and video recording, K-5 could record conversations between employees, between employees and supervisors, between employees and family members and other communications that raise workplace privacy and other issues. For example, capturing a conversation between an employee and her spouse about care for their child suffering from a disease could raise issues under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Of course, recordings like these, which could include recording of communications between employees and customers or patients, could be made without first obtaining the consent of one or all parties to the conversation, in violation federal and/or state laws. Video of an employee working past his or her scheduled time could become evidence of wage and hour violations. Increased workplace surveillance might be argued by some to chill protected speech by employees.  These are only examples of the potential workplace risks and, of course, there are potential benefits to this kind of technology. K-5 may in fact provide greater security to employees and deter prohibited and criminal activities.

Devices like K-5 are not inherently good or bad. Rather, the purposes for which they are used and the surrounding circumstances, among other things, will determine the relevant risks and appropriateness. There certainly will be no shortage of devices like K-5 in the years to come. The message to businesses however is to understand the capabilities of these devices and carefully think through the business and workplace applications and consequences, and hope that the law soon catches up to provide some guidance.

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Photo of Joseph J. Lazzarotti Joseph J. Lazzarotti

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)…

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Trained as an employee benefits lawyer, focused on compliance, Joe also is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits practice group.

In short, his practice focuses on the matrix of laws governing the privacy, security, and management of data, as well as the impact and regulation of social media. He also counsels companies on compliance, fiduciary, taxation, and administrative matters with respect to employee benefit plans.

Privacy and cybersecurity experience – Joe counsels multinational, national and regional companies in all industries on the broad array of laws, regulations, best practices, and preventive safeguards. The following are examples of areas of focus in his practice:

  • Advising health care providers, business associates, and group health plan sponsors concerning HIPAA/HITECH compliance, including risk assessments, policies and procedures, incident response plan development, vendor assessment and management programs, and training.
  • Coached hundreds of companies through the investigation, remediation, notification, and overall response to data breaches of all kinds – PHI, PII, payment card, etc.
  • Helping organizations address questions about the application, implementation, and overall compliance with European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and, in particular, its implications in the U.S., together with preparing for the California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Working with organizations to develop and implement video, audio, and data-driven monitoring and surveillance programs. For instance, in the transportation and related industries, Joe has worked with numerous clients on fleet management programs involving the use of telematics, dash-cams, event data recorders (EDR), and related technologies. He also has advised many clients in the use of biometrics including with regard to consent, data security, and retention issues under BIPA and other laws.
  • Assisting clients with growing state data security mandates to safeguard personal information, including steering clients through detailed risk assessments and converting those assessments into practical “best practice” risk management solutions, including written information security programs (WISPs). Related work includes compliance advice concerning FTC Act, Regulation S-P, GLBA, and New York Reg. 500.
  • Advising clients about best practices for electronic communications, including in social media, as well as when communicating under a “bring your own device” (BYOD) or “company owned personally enabled device” (COPE) environment.
  • Conducting various levels of privacy and data security training for executives and employees
  • Supports organizations through mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations with regard to the handling of employee and customer data, and the safeguarding of that data during the transaction.
  • Representing organizations in matters involving inquiries into privacy and data security compliance before federal and state agencies including the HHS Office of Civil Rights, Federal Trade Commission, and various state Attorneys General.

Benefits counseling experience – Joe’s work in the benefits counseling area covers many areas of employee benefits law. Below are some examples of that work:

  • As part of the Firm’s Health Care Reform Team, he advises employers and plan sponsors regarding the establishment, administration and operation of fully insured and self-funded health and welfare plans to comply with ERISA, IRC, ACA/PPACA, HIPAA, COBRA, ADA, GINA, and other related laws.
  • Guiding clients through the selection of plan service providers, along with negotiating service agreements with vendors to address plan compliance and operations, while leveraging data security experience to ensure plan data is safeguarded.
  • Counsels plan sponsors on day-to-day compliance and administrative issues affecting plans.
  • Assists in the design and drafting of benefit plan documents, including severance and fringe benefit plans.
  • Advises plan sponsors concerning employee benefit plan operation, administration and correcting errors in operation.

Joe speaks and writes regularly on current employee benefits and data privacy and cybersecurity topics and his work has been published in leading business and legal journals and media outlets, such as The Washington Post, Inside Counsel, Bloomberg, The National Law Journal, Financial Times, Business Insurance, HR Magazine and NPR, as well as the ABA Journal, The American Lawyer, Law360, Bender’s Labor and Employment Bulletin, the Australian Privacy Law Bulletin and the Privacy, and Data Security Law Journal.

Joe served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Laura Denvir Stith on the Missouri Court of Appeals.