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Wearable Technology

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 1st August 2019.

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Photo of Lord Wasserman Lord Wasserman Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the (1) sale, and (2) use, of wearable GPS tracking devices for (a) use in connection with the care of dementia patients, and (b) other purposes, is regulated; and if so, by whom.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The sale of wearable GPS tracking devices, including where they are sold to assist with the care of dementia patients, is subject to UK consumer protection legislation. This legislation includes the Consumer Rights Act 2015 under which all goods and services must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.

In addition, all personal data collected by GPS devices is subject to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 which is regulated by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). This legislation provides that any data collected must be processed transparently, fairly and for legitimate purposes. Companies developing new technologies which are likely to result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of data subjects are also required to complete a Data Protection Impact Assessment before the processing begins. In these instances, the company will be required to consult the ICO if their assessment indicates the processing would result in a high risk in the absence of any mitigating actions.

As GPS tracking is used for a wide range of applications, there are also some cases where other regulations may apply. For example, Section B of the Bail Act 1997 includes provisions in respect of electronic monitoring of people on bail.

The Government is committed to supporting the responsible use of technology to improve people's lives, including supporting its use to help vulnerable people like dementia patients. The Medical Research Council, the Alzheimer's Society and Alzheimer's Research UK are jointly investing £290 million in the UK Dementia Research Institute at Imperial College London which looks at technology solutions that can assist people with dementia in their homes. Our Industrial Strategy also includes the Ageing Society Grand Challenge through which the Government will invest in the further development of technologies like Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things with the aim that people can enjoy at least five extra healthy independent years of life by 2035.

The Government also recognises the importance of ensuring that regulation is able to keep pace as technology advances. On 11th June, we published our White Paper on Regulation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The White Paper confirmed that the Government will establish a Regulatory Horizons Council to identify the implications of technological innovation and advise the government on regulatory reform needed to support its safe introduction.

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