British ICO reminds wearable users to abide by the laws

The British Information Commissioner’s Office has issued a polite reminder that people need to be mindful of privacy laws when wearing devices like Google Glass.

Google Glass went on sale in the UK this past week and already it is raising questions about privacy issues. In a rather polite blog ICO Senior Technology Officer Andrew Paterson reminded people that in most cases using wearable devices to gather information for private use is perfectly legal, however there are cases where people may be stepping over the legal lines.

There is an important debate to be had around the privacy implications of wearable technology and it will ultimately be for society to decide how comfortable they are with wearables. However like any new technology, wearables must operate in compliance with the law. In the UK, this means making sure that these devices operate in line with the requirements of the UK Data Protection Act.

If you are using a wearable technology for your own use then you are unlikely to be breaching the Act. This is because the Act includes an exemption for the collection of personal information for domestic purposes. But if you were to one day decide that you’d like to start using this information for other purposes outside of your personal use, for example to support a local campaign or to start a business, then this exemption would no longer apply.

This is not the case for organisations, whose use of wearable technology to process personal information will almost always be covered under the Act. This means that they must process the information collected by these devices in compliance with the legislation. This includes making sure that people are being informed about how their details are being collected and used, only collecting information that is relevant, adequate and not excessive and ensuring that any information that needs to be collected is kept securely and deleted once it is no longer required.

The rise of wearable technology brings exciting new possibilities and is set to become widespread in the years ahead. But organisations must not lose sight of the fact that wearables must still operate in compliance with the law and consumers’ personal information must be looked after.

We have to applaud the tone of Mr. Paterson’s blog. It is neither overly threatening nor wrapped in government jargon – he is simply reminding people that there are privacy laws on the books and everyone should be mindful of how they use these devices.

You can read Mr. Paterson’s blog here.

Guy Wright

Guy Wright has been covering the technology space since the days when computers had cranks and networks were steam powered. He has been a writer and editor for more years then he cares to admit.


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