The app is “an important piece of technology that helps people feel safe coming back to the office,” said Myrna Coronado-Brookover, senior vice president of asset services at Transwestern, a commercial real estate company, who helped oversee the introduction of the app in the building.
Building apps allow you to monitor how many people are using conference rooms, cafeterias, or parking lots to help improve your operations. This data collection is part of the larger move toward “proptech,” an approach to real estate that allows companies to track how many people are in different parts of a building, which can help save money on heating, cooling and lighting in unused areas.
But privacy advocates say they are worried about the collection of workers’ personal data.
Companies have tracked employee phone and computer use for years, but these apps “take employee surveillance to a new level,” said Lorrie Faith Cranor, an engineering and public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory.
The apps can cause stress for employees who feel their movements at work are being monitored, she said, especially if the system flags personal information such as when employees who don’t work together spend long periods in each other’s offices, or when someone is using the restroom frequently.
Dr. Cranor stated that companies should be transparent about the information they track, how they use it, who has access to it, and why. She stated that privacy practices should be different depending on the type and source of the data. This is because the more personal the data, then the more restricted access should be.
Paul Rohmeyer, a professor from the Stevens Institute of Technology, advised that companies using building apps anonymize data whenever possible to reduce privacy concerns. While it may be necessary to identify individuals in certain situations, such as when contact tracing or investigating a crime on the property’s, the system default should not be to identify all employees at once.
Dr. Rohmeyer stated that tracking software used in building apps should also be limited for other reasons. Corporate espionage hackers might be able to identify business processes and what type of deals are being made by tracking who is attending meetings, for example. They may also track senior leaders’ routines.
Source: NY Times