Public Scholarship

Richardson, S., & Mackinnon, D. (2017). Left to their own devices: Privacy implications of wearables in the workplace. Report for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

This project was conducted at the Surveillance Studies Centre and supported by Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, under the 2016-2017 Contributions Program.

Wearable technologies are revolutionizing the way we understand and manage work. On the ground information about the conditions and context of work is no longer limited to verbal feedback or post hoc reports, but can stream directly and immediately from a sensor-enriched workforce. This allows for faster detection, prediction and analysis across many industrial workplace settings. From activity trackers that measure wellness information, to unique devices that predict musculoskeletal disease and measure vibration exposure – these are just some of the devices becoming more common in today’s workplaces.

While tracking the productivity and health and safety of employees is not new, many are concerned about the potential for these devices to extend various powers of surveillance inside the body. Previous research has provided some indication of how employers are using wearables and the data produced by them; but to date, there has been little discussion of the privacy implications of these devices, let alone in the Canadian context. To address this gap, we examined the technical and informational capabilities of currently available wearable technologies.

It was reported on in the National Post, Toronto Sun, HR Reporter Canada, CHOQ FM 105.1,, Privacy, Data Protection Law Blog, 24 Hours Toronto Edition, and (Catalan Newspaper).

I was a subject matter expert and consulted on this project led by sava saheli singh at the Surveillance Studies Centre. Check out the films, facilitation guides, and more here.

In all aspects of life, personal information is collected and analyzed by organizations that produce various outcomes—surveillance is not simply good or bad, helpful or harmful, but it is never neutral. These three short films were created to raise awareness about how large organizations use data and how these practices affect life chances and choices. We need to consider these implications, and critically examine the logics and practices within big data systems that underpin, enable, and accelerate surveillance.

This public outreach project speculates surveillance futures and the effects of interoperable systems.
A Model Employee, highlights workplace wearables and questions of data ownership and trust.
Frames, follows a woman through the smart city challenging the reliability of machine learning.
Blaxites, reveals the implications of data sharing and purpose limitation.

Roundtable Discussion at 2019 SSC Screening Surveillance Launch

Mackinnon, D. (2021). Do-It-Yourself Bureaucracy: Field Notes, File Keeping, and the ATI/FOI Process. FOI Tips and Tricks / Research Notes. Centre for Access to Information and Justice.

This research note provides some tips and tricks to overcome common organizational challenges and difficulties when using FOI as a method. I contend the findings of the ATI/FOI process cannot be separated from the politics of knowledge that surround the request, nor should we attempt to separate these bureaucratic practices and methods from our own research toolkit.

Be your own spreadsheet level bureaucrat!