GDPR and remote working, Ross O’Carroll Kelly-style

WFH Monitoring RO'CK; via Pixabay (modified)Ross O’Carroll-Kelly is the protagonist and narrator of many novels and a weekly satirical newspaper column in the Irish Times. He is a hugely self-confident South Dublin celtic tiger rugby cub who never grew up; his slightly dippy wife tolerates his legendary foibles and even-more-legendary indiscretions; and his terrible children take daily advantage of his boundless stupidity.

In last week’s column (audio here), he complained that his neighbour was power-washing the patio again, when he’s supposed to be working from home, but he gets away with it, because he gets his wife to move the cursor on his work laptop so it doesn’t go to sleep. Thanks to the pandemic, remote working is here to stay: in January of this year, the Government published its Making Remote Work – National Remote Working Strategy, “to ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way that maximises economic, social and environmental benefits”. It will create many benefits. For example, in this week’s column, Ross’s two eldest children, Ronan (Ro) (Ross’s illegitimate son, with many criminal connections) and Honor (Ross’s daughter-from-hell), go into the business of monitoring shirking remote-workers, without the need to microchip employees:

“So,” Honor goes, “a lot of you have, like, businesses, right? Well, they’re saying that when this, like, pandemic is, like, over, most people are never going to go back to working full-time in the office again … How do you know they’re even doing anything? How do you know they’re not like my so-called mom, who’s supposedly working from home, even though, this summer alone, she’s taken an online watercolour class, cleaned out the attic and reread all the Brontës.” …

“I had our human resources people check whether it would be legal to have my staff microchipped,” Larry Lucey goes, “so that I could monitor their movements via GPS. It turns out it would be a GDPR minefield. And a human rights one.” …

“Er, you won’t need to microchip your staff?” Honor goes. “Not if you sign up to Back To Your Desk – Remote Workforce Monitoring.”

This is not the first time Ross has run afoul of the GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of 27 April 2016)). He got fired from his job as an estate agent for a data breach (blogged here), and a data subject access request to a taxi app (blogged here) disclosed some information Ross would rather his wife, Sorcha, not discover. Let’s see if his children can learn from their father’s missteps and run their remote workforce monitoring business in a GDPR-compliant manner. In particular, I wonder whether their clients will be clear, open and honest with staff about this monitoring. Ro and Honor could do much worse than to consult the guidance note on remote monitoring provided by the Irish data protection consultancy, Castlebridge. Meantime, tune in to next week’s column for the next installment in this … er, interesting saga.