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[Slashdot] - School Custodian Refuses To Download Phone App That Monitors Location, Says It Got Her Fired


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Michelle Dionne, a former employee at a cleaning company in Darwell, Alberta, says she was fired for refusing to download an app that would check her location and ensure she was working her scheduled hours. CBC.ca reports: Dionne says she was thrilled to get the job last fall -- responsible for things like disinfecting door handles, light switches and bathrooms to prevent possible spread of the coronavirus. When her boss told her to download the app, Dionne says she was concerned about her privacy. The app would go on her personal phone and, she says, her boss didn't clearly explain how it worked or what would happen to any data it collected.[...] The app, called Blip, generates a geofence -- a virtual boundary, created by the employer using GPS -- that detects when an employee enters or leaves. The app registers a signal from the worker's cell phone, when their "locations" setting is turned on, so the boss can tell whether an employee is on site and how many hours that person works. It only registers an employee's location when they enter and exit the geofence and doesn't track their specific movements. It's not clear where that data is stored, or whether any other employee information might be included. Go Public reached out to the maker of the app, U.K.-based BrightHR. Spokesperson Natalie Shallow said, although the app collects data, that data "belongs to the customer organization" -- meaning, the company using the app -- and therefore is subject to the company's own policies. The data's protection "complies with all applicable laws, including Alberta's Personal Information Protection Act," Shallow said. Dionne worried about where the information might end up. She knew apps like Instagram, Facebook and others had been breached. She says no one told her how securely the information would be protected. Dionne's former boss admits she didn't know where the data generated by Blip would be stored when she introduced the app to her workforce last fall. "I never asked that question and it never came up in my mind to ask," said Hanan Yehia, founder and owner of H.Y. Cleaning Services, which operates cleaning services for eight locations in northern Alberta. She says after Dionne raised concerns, she went back to BrightHR for more information and was told employees' movements within the geofence are not specifically monitored. Yehia says she shared that information with Dionne. The app was a solution to a problem, says Yehia -- she was looking for a way to simplify payroll by easily tracking hours and making sure employees who claimed they were working were actually on the job. "We had some issues in some locations where they would say they were on site, that they were working, but they weren't," she said, clarifying that attendance was not an issue with Dionne. She also says Dionne's refusal to download the app wasn't the sole reason she was fired.

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