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Privacy megatrend: Diverging employee privacy cultures

Employees will build unique cultures defined by how they respond to technologies in the workplace.

Why will it happen?

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated technology-based tracking of employee status and productivity. At the same time, social unrest sharpened attention on technologies such as facial recognition and artificial intelligence that could drive racial and socioeconomic disparities. 

Consumer concerns about privacy vary depending on social circumstances, according to one study. As they bring these differing attitudes about technology and privacy into their places of work and also experience the global market’s reaction to the data and technology ethics of their employers, they will form shared opinions and expectations about privacy in the workplace.

Employee concerns about cyber attacks center around the potential impacts to their privacy


Exposure of personal data to third parties
%
Impacts on my career
%
Personal financial loss due to unauthorized access to pay or retirement data
%
Inability to work and deliver
%
Unauthorized access to my health data
%

Source: PwC, Workforce Pulse Survey, July 2020
July 14-16 2020: Base 1,071
Q: How worried are you about each of the following occurring as a result of breaches of personal and company data at work?

What’s driving the pace of this trend?

  • Data-intensive technology innovation.
  • Public concerns over personal and societal harms of technology.
  • Social unrest.
  • Labor union need for relevance.

How will it impact business? 

Companies most closely aligned with and intentional about positively shaping their employee privacy culture will likely achieve the greatest employee productivity and the easiest adoption of new technologies and data analytics in the workplace — and in their products and services.

Multinationals straddling varying privacy cultures across the three privacy regulatory poles are expected to face the greatest challenges when rolling out technologies globally, and they may need to consider different regional approaches to optimize employee productivity and returns on investment.

What should CEOs do?

  • Have the chief human resources officer (CHRO) deploy an employee privacy program — aligned with the company’s data and technology values — that aims for an endemic positive privacy culture. Such a program might include an employee council that reviews and communicates privacy and ethical impact assessments for new technologies and data uses in the workplace. It might also include a feedback mechanism for employees and let them manage their personal privacy at work and at home, including company-provided means for securing home offices.
  • Assign the heads of customer service, public relations and human resources a project formalizing a feedback mechanism for product and service ethical performance.

"Here in Denmark, we bring the concept of hygge — the coziness from sitting, eating and drinking with friends and sharing the day's stories — into our understanding of what is comfortable and acceptable information sharing in a social context. Even though we live by the same GDPR rules as the rest of Europe, successful companies will realize we may strike a different balance in different scenarios."

Charlotte Pedersen PwC Denmark Privacy Leader

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