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Privacy

Dutch Companies Not Allowed To Fitness-Track Their Employees (www.nu.nl) 173

An anonymous reader writes: The Dutch Privacy Authority made it known today that companies are not allowed to gather their employees' health data from wearable devices [original, in Dutch] such as the Fitbit. Of the two companies that were mentioned in this case, one of them had access to employee sleep patterns. In both cases the employees had given their employers permission to use this data. However, according to the Privacy Authority it is impossible to truly give 'free consent' when there is a 'financial dependency.'
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Dutch Companies Not Allowed To Fitness-Track Their Employees

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  • I would think that companies that collected health data would be screwed if obesity ever became a protected class and they showed a pattern of firing or not promoting unhealthy fat people.

    Companies that collect this stuff would already seem to be in borderline territory with race and age, which are already protected classes, since race and age can predict certain health conditions. (If health conditions were used in personnel decisions, someone could potentially say that's a round-about way of discriminatin
    • If obesity ever becomes a protected class

      If obesity ever becomes a protected class, we put a wall around Texas and Oklahoma (might even be able to monetize that shit: "World's Most Mundane Safari," we'll call it). ;)

      • (might even be able to monetize that shit: "World's Most Mundane Safari," we'll call it). ;)

        If it's Texas and Oklahoma, it'll be a pretty terrifying Safari. The game will be shooting back at you.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:26PM (#51659401)

      It should be some sort of middle-ground class. Overweight people generally know they will spend more on various things due to their obesity, and are willing to accept this as often being overweight is a choice (however, exiting that state is much less so, only some manage it). If you are able to do the work satisfactorily, the employer should be required to treat you as they would any other employee with similar performance, with the understanding that extra costs due to your weight would be born by you (For example, if you're 800 lbs and require a $10,000 office chair to hold your weight, the company pays $500 or whatever they would have for standard furniture, the employee pays the rest). This would be a deviation from "reasonable accommodations" as you'd have to make for disabled persons, but I think it's a fair deviation in that nobody chooses to lose their legs (or whatever) but people do, over time, choose to be overweight.

      The overweight should be protected from harassment at work due to their condition. It's not helpful and it's just plain rude.

      If you don't provide at least base protections for the overweight at work, enough that they can at least keep their job and progress in it as normal, here's the deal: You're just going to end up paying for them in your taxes when they lose their job and end up on welfare. Consider that before you say "Fatties deserve the insults and I shouldn't have to work beside one!"

      And yes, you don't have to put up with certain other bad life decisions, such as someone who never washes. But you have to understand that while that guy can wash tonight and the problem "goes away", the fat guy can't just stop eating tonight and have the problem disappear for you tomorrow. A lasting solution takes well over a year and from years of medical study, still provably has a low chance of permanent success.

      Now, I'm a libertarian, so obviously, in my la-la-land world I'd just say fuck it, no regulations at all one way or the other and no taxes, let the overweight build their own companies and compete on their own terms (or find companies that have a heart), but that's not how it is right now and if you want a "right now" solution that doesn't involve pressing a reset button on government, you need to fit it into what we've got. I believe this is a reasonable compromise.

      FWIW, I'm an obese IT guy myself (about 295 lbs) and I have not experienced any issues at work regarding my weight, from colleagues or in any other fashion. However, I completely believe it is an issue elsewhere. As to how I ended up this way? Several decades of bad diet that started from bullies at school and a ridiculously difficult body and mind that really just doesn't want to lose weight. I'm sure if you tied me to a chair 24 hours a day and didn't feed me more than 800 calories a day I'd be thin in a few months. But think about that yourself---pretty sure that counts as torture! Other methods outside of surgery don't work because your brain just doesn't want to let it happen. Until you're overweight don't say "willpower" because you seriously don't get it. Those that were overweight and are now thin do get it and know it's easier to quit smoking.

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        For example, if you're 800 lbs and require a $10,000 office chair to hold your weight, the company pays $500 or whatever they would have for standard furniture, the employee pays the rest.

        I weigh 350 pounds and get along just fine with a regular office chair. Skinny coworkers are the ones who are demanding a $10,000 ergonomic chair for their delicate bodies.

        The overweight should be protected from harassment at work due to their condition.

        I may be overweight but I'm not having a baby — or even eating for two, as I'm on a low-carb diet and eat less than many of my skinny coworkers.

        FWIW, I'm an obese IT guy myself (about 295 lbs) and I have not experienced any issues at work regarding my weight, from colleagues or in any other fashion.

        I find it easier to go to the gym to add 50 pounds of muscle of mass. Besides weighing 400 pounds, I find it difficult to find t-shirts that large. Dropping below 350 pounds has proven probl

        • as I'm on a low-carb diet and eat less than many of my skinny coworkers.

          That has virtually everything to do with your gut bacteria; I recommend you (at least temporarily) lay off wheat and dairy (neuropeptides that, among other things, harm the lining of the intestines) and start taking probiotics... or better yet, eat kimchee...

          • by delt0r ( 999393 )
            You have absolutely nothing scientific to back that up. I should know. I have colleges working on the real science.

            Nutrition and diet. Where every internet idiot can regurgitate bullshit and sound like they know what they are talking about.
            • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

              I should know. I have colleges working on the real science.

              And I have a friend in the Vatican does that make me an authority on religion? lol

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I'd kill for the ability to gain weight. I can't seem to get about 172 pounds and stay there. I peaked at 205 when I was much younger and had a whole lot of calories available and access to a gym. (Marines.) I came out of boot at 172. After a while, I was up to 205. I came home. I was 172 inside of a couple of months. I went back in, I think I made it up to about 185. I'm 172 today. I'll probably be 172 tomorrow. I'll almost certainly be 172 next month.

          I'm 5'-11" on my ID but I used to be a bit taller. I'm

    • if obesity ever became a protected class

      I think it already IS pretty much a protected class as you put it.

      If you merely suggest that people, need to lose weight, for their health and yes, even for a better appearance, you catch hell for "fat shaming" or whatever the SJW term for it is today.

      Don't get me wrong, no one should be taunted or teased, but these days, you can't even give advice that used to be noted as common sense anymore without offending someone or hurting little Suzy's self esteem.

      We are

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:46PM (#51659535)

        If you go around suggesting what other people should do for their health I hope you are equally as willing to accept that people tell you what you should do for your health. See it works both ways.

        When I was a kid that was called "being a nosy son of a bitch and butting into people's business". Live your life, and let other people live their lives. Now as a physician I only go around informing people of what they already know they should do for their health during office hours. These people don't listen to me - why the hell do you think they will bother listening to you?

        • If you go around suggesting what other people should do for their health I hope you are equally as willing to accept that people tell you what you should do for your health.

          I absolutely DO!!

          I'm overweight a bit myself right now...when I get like this, my friends often give me some shit, saying "you're turning into a fat bastard" or other needling.

          It is meant in good nature as that its a normal bunch of guys hazing each other a bit, but there is the grain of truth within that I see.

          It does help me to g

      • Back before I turned 30 and my metabolism slowed down, I used to get taunted and teased at work for eating so much and still being so thin. But then, I had coworkers who condescendingly referred to me as "son", too. But hey, I'm a white male, so they can do anything they want, right?
      • by SirSlud ( 67381 )

        >I think it already IS pretty much a protected class as you put it.

        It isn't.

        >If you merely suggest that people, need to lose weight, for their health and yes, even for a better appearance, you catch hell for "fat shaming" or whatever the SJW term for it is today.

        If it's your own family or friend, go for it. If it's a stranger, you're being rude.

        >Don't get me wrong, no one should be taunted or teased, but these days, you can't even give advice that used to be noted as common sense anymore without of

        • This guy/gal gets it.

          "Unsolicited advice of almost any kind has always been a socially inept move."

          Do we really live in a society where that isn't obvious??? Telling some coworker they need to lose weight is NOT being helpful - it's being a dick.

          • I have a friend with unduly low blood pressure (connected with other medical problems), who started using lots of salt in the hope of raising her blood pressure. She had strangers coming up to her in restaurants who told her not to use that much salt. It's not just fat.

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:09PM (#51659301)

    why has it taken governments so long to realize that if someone you works for asks for something, saying "no" can hurt you and therefore it should be illegal to ask for an employee to do anything that is not directly job related. that bullshit with disney asking for "donations" is a perfect example. i wish our regulatory agencies would do something about this kind of bullshit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If by virtue of your employment (job), an employer is required to provide for your healthcare expenses, then they are asking you for something that is job-related if they ask for fitness data.

      I happen to think this is a good argument for not requiring employers to provide for your healthcare expenses.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:38PM (#51659471)

        If by virtue of your employment (job), an employer is required to provide for your healthcare expenses, then they are asking you for something that is job-related if they ask for fitness data.

        I happen to think this is a good argument for not requiring employers to provide for your healthcare expenses.

        Exactly. Fortunately, in the Netherlands your boss has nothing* to do with your health insurance. I've always found the American system completely insane, having friends lose insurance simply because they are fired. You don't want your boss to provide you with housing or holidays, why would s/he have anything to do with your health insurance? That only causes trouble like Christian employers not wanting to cover contraception/abortion and things like this where your sleeping or eating habits suddenly because a rightful concern of your employer

        *) they can offer collectively bargain insurance, which can have slightly lower premiums, but it's usually something like 10 euro per month max. Also, they have some liability for you if you call in sick, which is justified on the grounds that sick leave is very often work related (stress, accidents)

        • You don't necessarily lose insurance when you're fired, the COBRA law says you can keep your company insurance for as long as you keep paying for it yourself after you're terminated. I have had a different problem: every time I change jobs, the new health insurance takes at least a month to take effect; apparently they expect you to pay for your own insurance for the first month. And then there was the company that started charging me $300 for health insurance, but never gave me my health insurance card, so
          • COBRA is prohibitively expensive for the majority of people it would apply to. There's no real good argument against Single Payer other than "it would hurt precious insurance companies." I wouldn't feel uncomfortable in a Japanese, British, Nordic, French, or German hospital. Arguably their care is about the same as the care that 99% of us get at a hospital. Where 'MURICA shines is the few who can afford to pay far beyond what insurance pays and bring in the absolute best...but that's not 99% of us.
            • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

              I don't think most people oppose single payer by suggesting that health care will get worse. Although if you look at the VA hospital system, I'm not really enthusiastic about how the government runs health care in the US on even a more limited level.

              Ultimately, its about where you want to see your country going. I can't argue that health insurance in the US leaves something to be desired, but does that mean that government single payer health care is the only other option? I understand why it is the *def

              • Sure, Denmark (or my own Sweden for that matter) is perhaps a stretch. We're after all very much smaller and somewhat homogeneous (well, we were).

                But Brittain is 60+ million, Germany is 80 million, and France is almost 70 million. These are not homogeneous countries, and not small by any stretch of the imagination. Their health care systems work reasonably well by all accounts, esp. the German and French, with the French being top-notch. (The NHS does have its problems though). Now, of course the French spe

          • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 )

            You've picked some seriously shitty companies to work for. I've never had to wait longer than a week to receive my insurance cards and all insurance was active the day I started, with or without an insurance card.

      • Maybe companies should be lobbying for single payer healthcare instead of H1B's?

        I find all this wellness crap to be very awkward on both sides, and usually in bad faith. The penalties for not meeting BMI (well debunked), cholesterol (often genetically driven), and so on are far worse than what the company actually invests to improve health. A once a year 2.5k fun run/walk is a joke, and usually an insult to the workers who are working long hours and catch flack for taking an hour off for even a company sp

        • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

          I've never seen a company with penalties for failing to make BMI or any other measurement. The HR department usually runs a wellness initiative, and the insurance companies push that because healthier people cost them less money, but I have never felt overly pressured to do anything like that.

          Now, if this Dutch company was forcing compliance and holding that information and using it. That's a big no-no. I'd never tolerate that in a place I worked. I would quite literally tell them to go fuck themselves.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Not an issue here in the Netherlands.
        Everybody has to have their own private health insurance (and it is a crime not to, it is also a crime for insurers to refuse insurance). Your employer can contribute to that, but the contract is between you and the health insurer, not between your boss and the insurer.

      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        Yes, but we are Building Socialism, comrade. The People demanded that their health be cared for by their employers. Therefore it is acceptable for them to track employee health.

      • This is why any benefit other than salary should be forbidden. Put it on the table, make it transparent, eliminate the lock-in, put some options back on the table for tens of millions of workers.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:38PM (#51659473) Homepage Journal

      It hasn't taken governments so long; there are other governments who do have stronger privacy protections (e.g., the Netherlands). It's American voters who are the problem.

      American voters have all been taught about the American Revolution in a special, narrow way that primes us to conceive of tyranny as something that comes exclusively from governments. We've forgotten about the tyranny that come from allowing an aristocracy to exercise overwhelming power. That's what government was in most places in the world prior to the 1700s: minorities of powerful individuals who advanced their mutual interests by imposing their collective will on the majority and calling it government by traditional or god-given right.

      The single most important event in the history of Western liberty was the Black Death. A medieval peasant couldn't take his labor elsewhere if he was unsatisfied with conditions on the manor; the landlords were effectively an agricultural cartel. But with nearly the entire work force exterminated by plague in many areas, labor prices rose. It became feasible for a peasant to take his labor elsewhere to sell -- if he wasn't caught and forced back onto the manor. The Black Death was the first crack in the aristocratic monopsony [wikipedia.org] hold upon the labor market. That's why serfdom was enforced by law (which the aristocrats made) in so many places, and why attempts to re-create aristocracy relied upon the slave trade (the US South) or the legal and economic subjugation of new groups of people (colonialism).

      • by asylumx ( 881307 )
        Um, this article is specifically about the government in the Netherlands and how they finally decided to protect their constituents' privacy in this way, so you are very clearly wrong when you say:

        It hasn't taken governments so long; there are other governments who do have stronger privacy protections (e.g., the Netherlands). It's American voters who are the problem.

        It literally *has* taken the Netherlands government this long to do this. The article isn't even about America, and neither is the comment

        • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @01:39PM (#51659975) Homepage Journal

          *has* taken the Netherlands government this long to do this. The article isn't even about America, and neither is the comment you replied to (at least not stated).

          The Dutch court ruled according to Dutch and EU law. They didn't make up new law, just ruled on how pre-existing law applied. There is no corresponding framework in the US law, other than the "Bill of Rights Penumbra" logic used in cases like Griswold v. Connecticut, which struck down anti-birth control laws. However that is a much weaker privacy framework in that it does not apply to private entities like employers, only to US and state government intrusions on individual liberties.

          So yes, I have thought about this, particularly from an American perspective as I am an American. I realize not all readers of this site are Americans, but many are.

        • @asylumx

          The fitbit has been on the market for how long now? Two years?

          Before the fitbit there was simply no convenient, off-the-shelf and affordable way to collect people's body operating characteristics.That emerged with fitbit.

          Then it will have taken awhile for knowledge of this technology to spread as far as those employers. They will have taken some time to hit on the idea, and set up a programme to start keeping tabs on their workers in this way. How long will that have taken? Half a year from th

      • What the fuck...you just toss the Black Death out there like it was nothing...imagine ebola, happening to everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone in the world, forever. It kills more people than communism, but that's OK because the shattered, grieving survivors - the ones that are going to be killed in a few years when ebola makes a comeback - got moderately better labor conditions afterwards? Do you even hear yourself when you say these monstrous things?
        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          I didn't say it was nothing; I'm saying it was a big deal -- so big it began the transformation society. Or are you saying that the Black Death changed nothing because it was a catastrophe?

          I can give another example of a catastrophe that is commonly held up as a textbook example of a good thing: the enclosure movement. Yes, it's good for us that the enclosure movement happened, but it was a catastrophe for most people at the time. It was an expropriation of economic interests held by the majority of peo

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @02:51PM (#51660495)

        In the US, we were taught pretty comprehensively about the dangers of aristocracy as well.

        The problem is that in the US, we have trouble sometimes telling what aristocracy looks like because we shortsightedly removed all noble titles. That removed the show-off aspect of nobility but made it harder to find the real aristocrats like your Bushes, Kennedys, Clintons, and etc. It might be a little easier to understand the country and where it was going if we'd been looking to elect Prince George II of the House of Bush or Baroness Hillary Clinton of Harlem.

    • we used to have unions to fight BS like this and then the work place got there GOP friends to kill them.

    • If this in turn implies you are not permitted, by the government, to say yes, then that is a far graver problem.

    • why has it taken governments so long to realize that if someone you works for asks for something, saying "no" can hurt you and therefore it should be illegal to ask for an employee to do anything that is not directly job related.

      I am concerned, that the females who work in my company are not performing necessary washing hygiene on their breasts. Therefore, every female employee will be required to install a webcam in their shower. And lather up appropriately.

      A female executive issued a memo that all males will also have to install webcams in their showers, and have a wank every morning. These videos will be reviewed by her and her giggling girlfriends while they comment, "(giggle) . . . I couldn't even pick my teeth with that t

    • Just out of curiosity, do you believe the same should be applied to unions as well? There are plenty of jobs where union membership is mandatory.

      What you're suggesting would have a rather large effect on a lot of unions and they way the currently operate.
      • it seems unreasonable to have a job requirement unrelated to the job itself. i realize that unions only exist because of rampant abuses by employers but a hard requirement on membership to a particular union opens the door for abuse of the members of said union. making requiring union membership illegal seems fair despite weakening the grip that unions have on employers.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Employers are constantly one the lookout for tools that they can use to coerce employees into doing what they want.

      "Being healthy" has in many ways become a secular religion and fitness trackers tie into both the instant gratification impulse of validating "healthy" behavior as well as the on-trend desire to display the latest gadgets. Displaying your good taste in cutting edge technology *and* your adherence to the fitness/health dogma seems almost identical to a religious person prominently wearing a cru

    • Pretty much any government, left unchecked for long enough, will treat it's citizens like farm animals, or like criminals in prison: Monitored 24/7/365, with no rights whatsoever, and treated like a numbered resource, not a living, sentient being.

      Of course citizenry, left unchecked for too long, will turn 'personal freedom' into utter chaos, with no laws to speak of, and everything falling apart around them. Ironically enough both sides have to battle with each other constantly in order for there to be any
    • therefore it should be illegal to ask for an employee to do anything that is not directly job related

      Because the idea of single source compensation died when contract law was created. If I wish to offer a company something more than basic rights to get something else in return, why should it be up to the government to stop it?

      Protect by forming a base minimum requirement, nothing more. These employees gave up information voluntarily in exchange for something. I don't understand why you think that needs protecting beyond ensuring that they have a) a base salary and b) no claims of unfair dismissal.

  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelgerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:16PM (#51659337)

    At least the Google Translate of the article was more readable than most Slashdot summaries...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Shouldn't a company have all of the data on their slaves that they can get?

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @12:29PM (#51659415)

    A small consulting company I worked for asked me after about two years to sign a non-compete agreement. I talked to an employment attorney who reviewed the agreement. He said it was a generic boilerplate with no obvious negatives, but then he asked me what I was given in consideration for signing the agreement -- raise, new title, any material benefits?

    I said no, should I ask for any? He said no, that might cause problems -- your best bet is to just sign it, but knowing that its not enforceable, as signing a non-compete when you already are employed without being given consideration has generally rendered non-compete agreements unenforceable in our state under the assumption that the relationship is coercive.

    I'm wondering if the coercive nature of employment could be used to block fitness tracker use in the US under a similar kind of logic.

    I think the entire concept is bogus. What I do away from work is my own business, and if that includes sitting like statue for the 16 hours I'm off work, so be it. I also think there's good reason to question what and how much exercise is ultimately beneficial. I'd also think companies would want to be cautious about implying penalties or career limitations from not meeting arbitrary fitness goals -- those in the worst physical shape may be coerced into levels of activity that are unhealthy for them, believing if they don't post numbers that meet some arbitrary employer standards they could lose their jobs, benefits or compensation.

    Ultimately I view these fitness trackers as a kind of confessional for the fitness religion, either affirming one's adherence to fitness dogma or one's place as a fitness heretic.

    • If I hadn't already commented on this story I would.
    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      A small consulting company I worked for asked me after about two years to sign a non-compete agreement.

      I had an employer who used to threaten me with the contract I signed. One day I told them to stop threatening me because the contract was unenforceable in CA. Their NY attorney reassured that it was enforceable in CA. After I insisted that they review it with a CA labor attorney, they discovered that the contract was unenforceable and I should have been threatening them with a lawsuit.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        I just ended up signing it with the notion that it was unenforceable.

        My sense is that cost and complexity of bringing a breach of contract suit makes it unlikely they would bother unless I "stole" one of the major accounts (which I never worked on).

        For run of the mill "violations" like going to work for another consultancy without treading on any of their existing accounts, I don't think they would bother. If I even thought there would be a hassle, I wouldn't tell them where I'm working (or tell them that

      • Would it have been enforceable in NY?

        • by creimer ( 824291 )
          The company was in NY and had a NY labor attorney. I was a contract worker in CA and CA labor laws applied to me. If I sued them, it would be from a CA court. I'm presuming that they would have to sue me in a CA court and not a NY court.
    • job discrimination based on your health is not ok in the usa

    • I'm wondering if the coercive nature of employment could be used to block fitness tracker use in the US under a similar kind of logic.

      Given what I've seen of US employer use of fitness trackers amounts to: "Here's your base salary without fitness tracker, and here's your same base salary but with a discount on health insurance with a fitness tracker" I see no reason why anyone would block it. I've yet to come across someone who's forced to wear one, and even those people who wear them in return for some benefits generally game the system when they want to.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        I would expect gadgets on Amazon any day that you can attach the tracker to that simulate various types of movement to fool the tracker -- long walks, intensive exercise sessions, etc.

        • No need. If you have a dog, the number of steps increases linearly with the size of a dog. Strap it to the dog collar on a German Shepard you get 2-3x the number of steps. Strap it to a poodle when going for a walk and it's more like 4-5x.

          If you don't feel like walking the dog, these things are water proof. Sending them "accidentally" through the wash. That gives you a good 3000 steps, 5000 if you have a drying cycle at the end.

          Also it's wise to put the fitbit on your dominant arm. Suddenly eating an entire

  • "However, according to the Privacy Authority it is impossible to truly give 'free consent' when there is a 'financial dependency.'"

    This is true in the US as well. It should be impossible to lose your rights regardless of what you agree to as a condition of employment.
  • They could just do what I do: attach my fitbit to the dog and let the dog run around in the back yard all day. Here's your frickin' exercise data, suckers!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Boss: Why are there gaps in your fitness tracking data on Thursday evenings
    Intern: I took the tracker off as I wanted some privacy
    Boss: But we need that data for our analysis. My wife always does the same thing, she has data gaps all over the place whenever she goes out.
    Intern: (looks at the ceiling trying desperately not to make eye contact)

Fundamentally, there may be no basis for anything.

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