The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is working to enforce employee surveillance, according to Benjamin Wiseman, Associate Director of the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.

Here are some key takeaways from a recent speech he gave to the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology.

  • The Commission’s recent actions addressing AI facial recognition technology, data brokers and health apps and websites demonstrate that the FTC will not hesitate to combat emerging privacy harms and other abuses in the marketplace. The same applies to worker surveillance.
  • As worker surveillance and AI management tools continue to permeate the workplace, the Commission has made clear that it will protect Americans from potential harms stemming from these technologies.
  • In a policy statement, the Commission emphasized that companies may violate the FTC Act if they, for example, deploy surveillance technology to monitor gig workers’ every move without transparency about how it impacts pay or performance evaluation.
  • In another policy statement, the FTC warned that companies that make deceptive statements about biometric technologies, fail to inform users about its use, or use biometric information in ways that are likely to cause harm without taking reasonable measures to mitigate injury may violate the FTC Act.
  • To understand what the Commission expects from worker surveillance tools that collect sensitive information like geolocation information and biometrics, we can look to recent Commission actions against companies deploying such tools in other contexts. (Think the Rite Aid Smart CCTV decision and the X-Mode decision). The principles from these cases apply with equal force to individuals subjected to surveillance on the job.