Balancing Technology Privacy Concerns with Benefits

4 approaches to protect your organization

by Haworth, Inc.

This is the second in a two-part series about technology in the workplace and how technology can empower a digital workforce, make our lives and work easier, and keep our information secure.

Data breaches—intentional or unintentional releases of secure or private/confidential information to an untrusted environment—are becoming increasingly common in the headlines.

As technology use increases in the workplace and provides insights, organizations should consider privacy to prevent data breaches. In addition to data privacy, it's also important to think about personal and physical privacy, as well as collection and use transparency.

Data Privacy

How secure an organization’s data is, who owns it, and how leaks are prevented affect work environments in a few different ways. The way information is secured is critical, as it cannot be leaked out for nefarious reasons. Additionally, the ownership of the data must be disclosed and considered when integrating any new technology.

We’ve seen what can happen when data privacy is compromised. In a recent Forbes article, the author wrote, “The shifting winds of what can and cannot be done with online data are swirling about us. Nowhere does it appear like there is more of a tornado coming than at Facebook. In many respects, the company's recent problem—from Facebook’s history-making single biggest day loss in market value, to data privacy concerns, to regulators from the EU and the United States railing against Facebook—are harbingers of what is to come.”

Personal Privacy

In software, all consideration must be given to personal privacy—the knowledge that your personal activities are not tracked and recorded. Features like “opt-out," "invisible mode,” “privacy mode,” or “do not disturb” should be integrated throughout the organization. Individual government regulations regarding privacy must also be adhered to and considered, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). And, everyone needs to sign an End User License Agreement (EULA) that explains how personal information will be collected and used.

Physical Privacy

The confidential information you can physically see or hear relates directly to the workspace. In many cases, information can either be gleaned or taken directly from a source when physical boundaries are inadequate. For example, a completely transparent glass conference room leaves itself open to physical privacy concerns as passers-by may see what’s on a display or could hear what’s being said. Technologies such as state-changing glass or privacy films can help significantly reduce the potential for data loss.


Companies implementing new technologies must be transparent with their employees about the intention and use of collected data. An organization’s ability to understand the purpose of monitoring and how data will be used to achieve buy-in and participation is critical for adoption of the technology to occur. If employees are not aware of what data is being collected, it can lead to a sense of paranoia and overall drop in performance. Being transparent with employees maintains trust.

The benefit of the technology must outweigh the concerns of privacy and data collection. This can be achieved by ensuring the users are informed and making sure that adequate privacy policies are in place. Workspace features such as enclosed rooms with state-changing glass or privacy film and acoustically sound materials can also provide privacy.

The emerging digital workplace, which continually brings about more effective ways of working, is a cultural shift—different than how we worked five years ago—and driven by the evolution of technologies. The new digital workplace is no longer a place we go, it is a location-agnostic occurrence—meaning it can happen at any time of the day using connected devices all over the world. The digital workplace is all about how technology is transforming the type of work employees perform, as well as where and how work gets done. When adequate privacy is present, organizations can use technology to:

  • Support virtual work environments that allow employees to stay connected in distributed and virtualized work locations while balancing customer privacy and operational risk. 
  • Minimize spending and enhance productivity by providing employees with the right tools and right information at the right time. 
  • Winning the talent war by offering the progressive and innovative environments that top candidates now expect.

To learn more about the effect technology has on the way we work, read our article, “More Than Ever, We Work on the Move.

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