On 7 August 2023, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who scrutinise the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), published its report titled "Connected tech: smart or sinister?" This report delves into the potential advantages and drawbacks of employing "connected technology" referring to devices linked to the internet or other digital networks, across various contexts. In relation to the workplace, the report set out recommendations which include:

  • The monitoring of employees in smart workplaces (where artificial intelligence is deployed) should be done only in consultation with, and with the consent of, those being monitored.
  • The Information Commissioner's Office (the UK’s Data Protection Regulator) should develop its draft guidance document, "Employment practices: monitoring at work" into a code of principles intended for developers and operators of workplace connected technology.
  • The Government should initiate research endeavours to enhance the foundation of evidence concerning the implementation of automated systems and data collection mechanisms within work environments.
  • The Government should clarify whether proposals for the regulation of artificial intelligence will extend to the Health and Safety Executive and detail in its response to this report how the Executive can be supported in fulfilling this remit.

This comes in the aftermath of the then- Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s March 2023 report on the Royal Mail which revealed a concern of the discrepancies between the employee privacy policy and the actual use of data from handheld devices that had been used to track the speed at which post was delivered. The Committee in this case “invite[d] the Information Commissioner to review the legal basis for the collection, storage and use of this data and to report their findings to the Committee by the end of 2023”.

The suggested consent requirement is at odds with the current law which sets out exemptions from the need for consent. Consent in the workplace is also notoriously difficult to achieve given the imbalance of power between employer and employee. Any suggested changes will therefore have to be carefully thought through by DCMS.