Contact tracing and Privacy Protection: 5 Questions Worth Clarifying

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of changes to all spheres of our lives. From never before seen limitations on social gatherings to the way business is conducted on a daily basis. Remote work has seen a sudden rise that has accelerated its adoption, while essential workers learn to integrate new sanitation and hygiene measures to keep their work environment safe. Companies are also looking towards technological solutions like Safeteams to help them with protecting their workforce, which inherently raises questions about balancing health and safety measures and data privacy.


According to a study conducted by professors from Auburn University and University At Buffalo, more than half of surveyed occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals are in favor of wearable technologies. The study further reveals that the single greatest barrier with using wearable sensors at their workplace is employee privacy and confidentiality (Figure 1).

Contact tracing and Privacy Protection: 5 Questions Worth Clarifying

(Figure from "Barriers to the Adoption of Wearable Sensors in the Workplace: A Survey of Occupational Safety and Health Professionals")


This should not be surprising as we live in an era of accepting terms and conditions for services we require without fully understanding (or even reading) the said terms and conditions. Based on our experience with customers across a variety of industries, we suggest employers answer the following five questions to elucidate any concerns of a privacy breach and to successfully integrate a contact tracing wearable technology into a workspace.


  1. Why is the information collected? Clearly explain the purpose of the technology. Similar to the introduction of PPEs, staggered shift scheduling, remote work, and the many other initiatives to reduce exposure, the clearer the purpose the better the compliance. Employers can provide employees with an FAQ and supplement it with a Q&A session.

  2. What Information is collected? It’s best to be transparent and thorough so users can have a better understanding of what the technology does, especially for those that are less tech-savvy. By reminding employees of the purpose of the technology, it also puts each metric into perspective.

  3. How is the data used afterward? Similar toSimon Sinek’s golden circle, we’ve covered the “Why” and the “What”. The “How” completes the equation and employees can better trust that the metrics collected serve the purpose of the newly integrated technology.

  4. When is the information collected? As mentioned in our blog post about contact tracing, some technologies are more invasive than others. Apps, for example, must be installed on personal mobile phones which employees take home and it can be unclear to users whether data is collected outside of work hours. Wearable technologies, on the other hand, is a more amenable alternative for users as it can be left at work.

  5. Who has access to the information collected? This can help elucidate concerns employees might have of being tracked by their leadership team for other purposes than their health and safety if they know, for example, that the only person with access to the data is a health and safety coordinator.


It’s also important to remind everyone that it’s a collective effort in which each individual plays a role in protecting their peers, whether it’s wearing a mask or a wearable device to limit the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.


If you’d like to learn more about Contact Tracing and Safeteams, we’d be happy to help. Please feel free to contact us with any inquiries.



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