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Wearable technology subject to UK data protection laws, says watchdog

The collection and processing of personal data gathered from 'wearables' is subject to UK data protection laws, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has confirmed.27 Jun 2014

The watchdog said that the collection and processing of personal data via wearable technology, such as Google's computer spectacles product 'Google Glass', must adhere to the Data Protection Act (DPA).

"If you are using a wearable technology for your own use then you are unlikely to be breaching the Act," senior technology officer Andrew Paterson at the ICO said in a blog posted by the watchdog. "This is because the Act includes an exemption for the collection of personal information for domestic purposes. But if you were to one day decide that you’d like to start using this information for other purposes outside of your personal use, for example to support a local campaign or to start a business, then this exemption would no longer apply."

"This is not the case for organisations, whose use of wearable technology to process personal information will almost always be covered the Act. This means that they must process the information collected by these devices in compliance with the legislation. This includes making sure that people are being informed about how their details are being collected and used, only collecting information that is relevant, adequate and not excessive and ensuring that any information that needs to be collected is kept securely and deleted once it is no longer required" Paterson said.

Paterson also confirmed that organisations that allow users of their wearable tech to capture video and still images will also have to comply with the ICO's code of practice on CCTV. The code is currently in the process of being updated, with proposed updates to its existing guidance the subject of a consultation that does not close until 1 July.

Last year EU privacy body the Article 29 Working Party, together with privacy commissioners in Canada and Australia, asked Google to provide it with details about Google Glass, including the type of data that the product would allow users to collect. At that stage the product was still under development. It was launched in the UK earlier this month.

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