This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum.
By now, most of us know about Google Glass. It’s a wearable computer with a head-mounted display that kind of looks like a pair of eyeglasses. You can take pictures, record video, get directions, send messages, share what you’re looking at and much more. It comes in multiple colors, and let’s face it — it’s neater than Jell-O. We all want to test drive a pair.
But from a business perspective, we have to view Google Glass (and similar kinds of wearable tech) a little differently. Despite the fact that Google Glass is not yet available to the public, several types of businesses — including restaurants, bars, night clubs, casinos and theaters — have already banned it from their premises.
Eric B. Meyer, a partner in the labor and employment group at the law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP and author of the blog The Employer Handbook, sees other industries that might be impacted by Glass. “In industries and businesses where confidentiality or privacy is paramount, such as healthcare, financial services, legal, government — I can envision workplace rules specifically banning Google Glass.”
Part of the reason businesses will view Google Glass differently is the recording feature, says Heather Bussing, an employment attorney and contributor at the HR Examiner. “When everything someone sees can be recorded without other people knowing, it makes people uncomfortable. At worst, it is illegal since many states require consent before you record someone. At best, it’s bad manners.”
Google Glass Might Benefit Your Business
Before deciding to completely ban Google Glass, companies might want to evaluate if their business can benefit from using it. Meyer suggests some companies might embrace Google Glass for marketing purposes. “Real-time sharing could entice others to use the same products or service. An amusement park or ski resort, for example, may want to broadcast the customer experience.”
It’s also possible that Google Glass could benefit employees. For example, Google Glass could enhance department meetings because there would be a live recording of the discussion and decision-making process. It might create new opportunities for employee training and professional development. “It’s another way to communicate that we haven’t even begun to figure out,” Bussing says.
Wearable Tech Policy
Regardless of whether it benefits or challenges your company, Google Glass, like all new technologies, will test us. Companies will have to define what Google Glass means for their business and their employees. They will have to establish some decorum when it comes to wearable tech. Bussing reminds us, “Most companies don’t have a ‘do not record people in the bathroom’ policy. So it will be a good idea to establish some etiquette — at the very least, on what spaces are private and what are public.”
Meyer also mentions one area that companies will definitely want to address — employee safety. For example, West Virginia proposed an amendment to ban drivers from wearing Google Glass on the road. If companies have employees who drive as part of their regular duties, it will be important to specifically address driving, distractions and safety.
Another topic of focus will be confidentiality and trade secrets. Bussing believes, “Google Glass will get us focused on privacy and considering others across all technologies because there’s something about recording others so easily without their knowledge that crosses a line. Companies want to consider defamation, posting video of others without their permission, and protecting trade secrets and confidential information.”
Check Current Policies
Bussing says the good news is many of the workplace laws we currently have in place may already address the matter. “Laws like HIPAA, FMLA and ADA protect against ‘disclosures’ and require confidentiality of health information. It doesn’t matter how the information is collected, stored, or disclosed — it’s covered by the laws already.”
As more individuals start trying out the cool new Google Glass, businesses must become aware of the ways in which Google Glass could be used intentionally, or perceived by others, to violate employment laws. Then Meyer recommends “educating and training employees as well as managers in these areas.”
Do you know anyone who is beta testing Google Glass? What pros and cons do you see for employers? Let us know your thoughts.