Clarkslegal LLP - Solicitors in Reading and London

Legal Updates

Microchips or Micromanagement?

20 November 2018 #Information Technology #Employment


According to various media reports[1] a Swedish microchip company called BioHax is in talks with several high-profile legal and financial UK companies to implant employees with microchips.

BioHax made the headlines last year when US based company Three Square Market implanted microchips in one third of its employees.[2]

The chips are smaller than a grain of sand and are implanted into the hand, between the thumb and forefinger. The chips allow employees to open doors and log in to computers. In Sweden, BioHax chips are already used by train commuters instead of physical tickets.

This technology is not just for our Swedish and American colleagues: UK-based company BioTeq has already implanted microchips into over 100 people in the UK.

Arguably the ability to open doors and log in seamlessly is appealing and may increase workplace productivity. However, the use of this technology in the UK has been met with objection and raises a number of legal issues: 

Workplace Privacy Concerns

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has voiced serious concerns that the technology could “further erode dignity and right to privacy in the workplace” and be used by employers to “micromanage staff out of the company”.[3]

Although the microchips do not track GPS data, they can collect other data. While employees are likely already subject to some form of data collection and monitoring in the workplace – such as email monitoring – these measures do not follow them home and can be switched off at the end of the day.

Data Protection Concerns

The collection of personal data will be caught by the GDPR. Employers will need to take this into consideration before implementing this type of technology and ensure they gain full consent from employees.

The microchips use radio-frequency identification technology (RFID) and it has already been established that, with the right tools, cards using RFID technology can be copied from a few feet away. If personal data is collated in this way or through any other unauthorised way, then employers may be inadvertently opening themselves up to increased risk of data breaches.

Finally, there are also questions regarding ownership: for example, who owns the hardware and the data when an employee leaves the company? 

Other Legal Issues

Aside with the Orwellian concerns regarding the implants and data collection, the technology also raises several employment law related issues.

For example, employers would need to be careful not to place pressure on employees to sign up for the implants, as this could lead to employment claims such as constructive dismissal.

Similarly, employers would need to take care if ever implementing a policy which required employees to get implants, as this could lead to possible discrimination claims.

Skin Deep?

While this article has raised some of the immediate concerns and possible issues with microchips in the workplace, employees in UK companies have already been microchipped voluntarily. Clearly there is some uptake amongst UK employees.

BioHax has also announced that it plans to open a London office which indicates at least some level of demand for this technology here in the UK.

Perhaps the potential for this technology is more than skin deep.

 

[1]

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2018/11/10/major-uk-companies-preparing-microchip-employees/

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/nov/11/alarm-over-talks-to-implant-uk-employees-with-microchips

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/microchip-uk-workers-employees-privacy-bioteq-biohax-cbi-tuc-trade-union-a8629656.html

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-40710051

[3] https://www.tuc.org.uk/blogs/im-person-not-number-why-microchipping-staff-sinister-step-too-far

Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Read more articles

Martha Craven

Martha Craven
Trainee Solicitor

E: MCraven@clarkslegal.com
T: 0118 960 4679
M: 07748638845

Contact

Information Technology team
+44 (0)118 958 5321