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The dangers of wearable tech in the workplace

In recent years, everyday gadgets have expanded into nearly all corners of life, including personal fitness. Today's wearable fitness tracking devices offer insight into a wealth of data that might otherwise be impossible to keep tabs on. With this incredible technology, health-minded individuals can monitor their progress. But what happens when this level of personal data crosses over into the workplace?

The wearable tech craze spreads to the office

Many employers have initiated company-wide health and fitness programs, sometimes going as far as to provide free wearable fitness technology to help employees keep track of their progress. Some of these devices link to company systems and websites that provide analysis and encouragement, and even spur friendly competition. Unfortunately, this constant connectivity has a potential privacy concern. Without complete control over access to that data, an employee can't be entirely certain what his or her employer might do with it.

Unknowingly, employees using wearable tech may be giving their employers data that pertains to their daily habits, activities and general health. If your employer is aware of your habits and your health, it's a relatively small jump from their perspective to say that your medical outcomes should be placed squarely on your shoulders.

Why it matters whether your employer has access to your health

Though most people know that health is not quite so black and white (and that corporate leaders aren't usually medical doctors), employees' seemingly cut-and-dry, no-context data-tracking software may be giving employers the wrong idea about causation. This could lead to cuts in already meager and dwindling health care plans. Depending on who has access to your data, your overall habits could even be used against you subtly by coworkers, managers or others, regardless of impropriety.

It's not to say that employer wellness programs aren't valuable. Employees' participation in work-supported programs that support health habits is undoubtedly a positive thing. But are employees leaving themselves too far open?

What you can do to protect your rights and privacy

To avoid the potentially damaging effects of sharing too much data with your employer, review the privacy policy thoroughly and not shy away from asking questions about how your information will be used if your employer offers you a wearable health tracking device. By staying mindful of what you're agreeing to and making it clear that you are interested in how your data is used, you may be able to better control the information you volunteer.

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