A First-Class Feature: Security in the Era of Worker Data

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A company is responsible for protecting its data, just like any other asset, but unlike a typical business asset, data comes with a range of dire consequences if its safety is ignored. Competitors with the right information out-flank one another regularly -- with enough time to act, data is a gold mine for opportunity. That doesn’t even touch on the personal impact when customer or employee data leaks -- accessed outside of their control.

This is magnified when you talk about human data — information taken from customers or, as in our case, employees whose daily physical work puts them at risk for injury. Data from our bodies is personal and informs our worldview.

Wearable sensors worn by a person are not much different, offering the benefits of sharing, processing, reviewing and cataloging sensor output in ways that a single person would otherwise have difficulty conveying in an unbiased, high-fidelity way. In the case of industrial workers, we’ve seen that this data can literally improve health, make businesses safer, and help employees live happier lives.

Given all of the benefits this information brings, personal human data comes with massive responsibility to protect individual’s rights and freedoms. As more and more industries adopt data-rich wearable technologies to improve their businesses or protect their workforces, it’s imperative that security be prioritized as a first-class feature.

Data security takes empathy

Taking a first-class approach to protecting data means recognizing that data is owned by the person that the data is collected from. This includes anything generated by the person - motion information, environmental conditions experienced, and much more.

This information describes a person’s experience, determined from the environment and behaviors a person takes, and can be useful as a means of solving business problems. The data needs to be treated as the sensitive, personal information that it is, with a culture promoting empathy for the people it comes from.

Data security takes trust

For companies leveraging wearables and data for a variety of purposes, the central issue is not just, “How can we use this data?”, but “do workers trust the entity doing the data collection and analysis work?” The answer for any person should be a consciously chosen “Yes”. If that ever changes for a person, they should be in control of how they’re viewed, perceived and understood through the lens of that information. The only way to do this is to present information in an easily consumable way to the individual and offer easy data handling options.

Data security takes control

We always make sure that data follows a secure path, and others should do the same. For us, this means encrypting data both at rest and in flight. In addition, it’s important to remember that data handling includes not only the technical gizmos, but also the people and teams that are privy to the details, outcomes and presentations that inform decisions that impact individuals. These data handlers are trained to handle human data securely.

Data security takes collaboration

Then there’s communication of data in a secure way. With this kind of data it is a constant battle, adapting to different needs. Data teams must get the right stakeholders around the table to have meaningful conversations about how the data impacts an organization.

There is the balance of perfect security (no information shared) and perfect transparency (all information shared). It is a choice each person and organization chooses through action, or worse - inaction.

In the process of protecting this kind of data, there will be new things you haven’t seen before, connecting many different areas of the organization. As with any collaborative effort with multiple decision makers, this may create some challenges. Take a moment to consider the benefits of seeing the problems, as well as the consequences of staying blind to them. It’s best to step bravely into the light.

A first-class approach

Data is an integral part of the world around us. The world is sampled through our eyes between 25-80hz and processed through our brains to filter out the noise from what’s valuable. We hear a range of frequencies based on our body’s fantastic instrumentation. We can smell good or bad odors and taste wonderful desserts, distinguishing the salty from the sweet or sour.

Our nervous system allows muscle contractions to power us through the world at speeds we control and reach out to touch our world. How we process all of this human data -- our likes, dislikes, actions and feelings -- determines who we are as people, workers, and family members.

So it’s understandable that protecting that data lies at the heart of all things that we do as humans too. Until a few years ago the technology didn’t exist to protect this data in a scalable way. As we enter a new age of always connected mobile devices and workplace wearables it’s important that we define the security of human data as the vital issue that it is. Provide fine grained security and use this information for the good of the individual.

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