Why your employer rejects your request to have a hearing support app on the job

smartphone in hand with lock symbol on screen

Your company may reject your request to use certain apps, devices and software. Especially those that you would like to support you with communicating and hearing well on the job. When your employer says no, it can be frustrating, to say the least. It may appear that your company is stuck in the stone age. But for a good reason. Using tech like speech-to-text, sound clarification headsets, amplification tools, any assistive app, or even using your hearing aids via a smartphone app that requires a microphone to listen can cause employers to worry.

These tech tools are a must-have and have become a much-needed technology. However, as familiar as we are with these technologies outside our work, your company’s policies may not be updated to keep up with advanced tech. Your tech procurement team will need to review and examine these tech privacy policies and user agreements against internal rules to evaluate how safe it is to use these technologies.

There are a few reasons why your company might say no to your request for assistive tech.

Data Privacy Laws

Employers in health, banking and legal live by the confidentiality law. It was a law designed by the government to help protect consumers. No trace of anything you say or records kept about you can be shared by anyone other than what you have consented to.

Before the digital age, these companies had to secure files and records. It was apparent who had access to the filing cabinet and who didn’t. Everything was in place to keep documents confidential per government compliance rules.

When we pivoted to the digital age, things got messy with different software and computers running from a private virtual memory workspace known as the cloud. Companies operate from their private cloud that no one can access except employees with specific roles. However, many apps we want to use serve outside these private clouds to allow access to many people and companies. This is where things get really confusing because now companies don’t have control of what information is shared that would generally be secure. They also don’t have any control if cybersecurity criminals get access to these data.

So when you bring an app that your employer is unfamiliar with or if they find out it is using a cloud that’s not theirs, it’s an easy no. Conversations about clients, business matters and other confidential information in the workplace are exposed. They have no control over what other app companies are doing with their data. They would need high control over the data or information discussed in confidential interactions to be compliant.

Employers are nervous and not rejecting your request to break any accessibility laws. They don’t want to violate any laws. Any tracing of data or information leaking through this software and smartphone is not only a huge fine that can go as high as millions of dollars. Breaking an ADA law doesn’t go as high, and I believe it is their preferred choice to manage than having any data breach. However, if you can find an alternative solution, it is a much safer bet for them.

Competitive Intelligence

A competitor’s job is to find out any information about their competitors. It’s a process of investigating your competitors, like Sherlock Holmes. Competitors use the information they gather to develop their own strategy to stay relevant and keep their business alive.

These competitors can find a lot of information in clever ways. It would be a lot easier if they could find a whistleblower in your company who breaks their employment contract by revealing confidential information. But competitors need to find another way. That’s based on how you interact with the app. Some of our software or app can reveal data when interacting with them.

For example, some data policies you’ve agreed to when you download and use the software or app will state that the company will not share any personal data it collects. But if they are Google or Amazon, they make money by repurposing your data to sell other things. These companies make their money through other business activity that generates revenue from selling you something or selling advertising opportunities to other company based on the data they collected from you.

You may think I don’t care if I’m advertised to. But you may be missing something entirely. It’s the information behind the data the competitors are looking for behind these advertising services. These competitors don’t plan on advertising or selling to you, but they can sure collect insightful information or activities happening behind the walls of your companies. Google and Amazon will offer suggested times to advertise based on your usage. Data such as when you use the app can reveal some kind of activities happening at your work.

Audio data or keywords collected by this app to later advertise can tell a competitor what conversation is happening. Yet, if you think they won’t be able to trace the data back to you alone, there is enough intelligence to guess, based on GPS data, that could point to the vicinity of your company’s office buildings.

I remember a father at Apple who brought his daughter to work day. His daughter was vlogging her experience with her Dad on the Apple campus. Apple is so strict about talking about what’s happening inside their company that they fired the father for publicly talking about his work, revealing secret projects that Apple is doing.

What the daughter did by mistake provided the competitive intelligence that Google, Samsung or any other smartphone company would dream of. It gives them enough time to build something similar to catch up with their competitor, Apple and ensure they don’t lose customers to Apple.

Selling your data

Often companies want to give you an app or software for free to find other revenue to keep profitable. Maybe they want to make more money by selling your data to other companies.

Any app or software requiring internet or wifi could collect data to send to the cloud. This is enough to scare any company without control over who or where their data has gone in the wild. This will undoubtedly break compliance rules.

So what are we left to use?

Sometimes the old fashion way is all we can do. That means leaving your smartphone, desktop and computer away. Use a headset, bring a notetaker or use any legacy devices that are not digital at all. It can be cumbersome to set up and not exactly high-tech, but it can go a long way to protect the privacy that your company need to follow.

Not all software, apps, and hardware are off-limit too. At Lisnen, we do not copy any of the audio data when you use our app. We only use the cloud to verify your account login and save recordings after people select to record audio to help improve our app. We also reserve data on users’ preferences for ideas for new features. All of these data can be 100% deleted by the user. Our subscription plan is how we make money, and we can leave all the data in the hands of the users. There may be other apps like Lisnen. So it’s worth asking the apps and software companies for more information and asking questions about what data is saved on you.

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