November 17, 2014

Wearable technology – what are the main legal issues?

This post was written by: Aston Bond Law Firm

android wear

Wearable technology is tipped to be the next ‘big thing’ by many of the industry’s leading experts. Apple’s Watch and the controversial Google Glass are testaments to that, showing that wearables have the backing of the two tech giants of the world. But what are the legal implications of wearing such items?

These devices are connected to your internet enabled smartphones, and from there they have the ability to upload and download data. Due to their discrete nature, they have come under fire for breaching people’s privacy rights. For example, these devices can record high quality video, and snap images without others around them becoming aware. Their ability to film like this has led to many cinema company’s around the world calling for use of the devices to be banned whilst on their premises.

But what does the law state when it comes to their communication ability? A recent US case involved a Google Glass wearer who was caught speeding. As the police officer pulled her over, he noticed she was wearing the glasses and  proceeded to issue her a ticket for breach of a ‘distracted-driving’ law. However, the driver was later cleared of these charges, even though the case continues to be positively referred to in other cases involving the use of illegal screens whilst driving.

The Department for Transport have issued a warning in regards to driving whilst using wearable technology. If an accident is caused, and a trace of messages or calls can be found in relation to that time period, police can prove that you were texting or using your wearable tech to send messages whilst driving. For example, if you were sending a message via your smartwatch, this would be considered illegal. However this can cause confusion, as many of these devices offer the same style of ‘hands-free’ mode that smartphones offer. There still is no direct law regarding the use of wearables when driving, but as the popularity of these devices increases, such legislation will certainly become required. Being caught behind the wheel whilst unsafely operating a device such as the Apple Watch would carry a fixed penalty notice of £100 and three penalty points. In more serious cases where accidents are involved, it could be taken to court where drivers face disqualification and a maximum £1,000 fine.

Another issue surrounding technology with the ability to record footage, is privacy. At what stage do these items start to invade our privacy beyond the point of our control? Anyone can walk through the street filming using one of these devices, but how does the law differ to filming using a more conventional camera? Well, surprisingly it doesn’t differ, and you can legally film in a public place without breaking any laws, as long as you are not doing it for commercial purposes, ie making money from the footage.

Does wearable technology scare you in any way? Or do you feel it’s another necessary step in the right direction? As a bit of a ‘tech geek’, I personally feel that being able to send a text message from your watch is an interesting concept, but I cannot help but feel that there will be many implications and laws that restrict their use.

Joel Chapman, Online Marketing Executive