Want to use wearable technology in your business? Check out new ICO guidance first

Want to use wearable technology in your business? Check out new ICO guidance first

Picture the scene: you’re paying for your flat white coffee in an achingly fashionable part of town. The lavishly-bearded hipster behind the counter asks whether you want to pay in Bitcoin.

Suddenly, you notice that his glasses have a miniature camera attached to them, recording the unrelenting tedium of the whole transaction.

As you fumble for some change—you are all out of Bitcoins—you wonder why he is recording any of this at all. In fact, is he allowed to? Did he ask whether he could?

You noticed a handful of CCTV cameras as you wandered in but didn’t see any notices saying ‘WARNING: our staff wear cameras on their glasses which may record your every—every—move.’ He’s not wearing a badge saying ‘SMILE! You’re being filmed by me (although I’m not entirely sure why)’

Is this our future?

Yes: to a degree.

Businesses have already started investigating the technology and how it might be used to enhance customer experiences.

As a result, law-makers and regulators have also been grappling with the above issues. Whilst the EU’s Data Protection Regulation is still being negotiated, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has been a bit quicker off the mark. Yesterday, it published its updated code of practice for surveillance cameras which sets out when and where it believes this technology can be used.


It is clear that the use of technology, such as Google Glass, will need to be a tad more sophisticated than in the example above.

So what does the code say?

For a start, page 5 of the code makes it clear that businesses—and not just public authorities—need to comply with the code:

the private sector is required to follow this code to meet its legal obligations under the [Data Protection Act 1998]. Any organisation using cameras to process personal data should follow the recommendations of this code.

It goes on to clarify, at page 8, that just because the technology is oh-so-trendy isn’t a good enough reason to use it:

You should ... carefully consider whether or not to use a surveillance system. The fact that it is possible, affordable or has public support should not be the justification for processing personal data.

The code goes on to say, (again, at page 8):

You should also take into account the nature of the problem you are seeking to address; whether a surveillance system would be a justified and an effective solution, whether bette

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