Construction tech is still a nascent industry, despite the fact that investors have put billions of dollars into the sector over the past several years. As general contractors, site supervisors, and office managers at construction firms acclimate to infusing technology into their day-to-day processes, they’re learning that their corner of the tech industry is not immune to privacy issues. Specifically, the buying and selling of their personal and company data.
While the issue of buying and selling user data is often associated with consumer oriented apps or social media platforms, the reality is that construction tech is just as vulnerable. Arguably, workers in the construction industry are more at risk because the use of technology on job sites is still new.
For example, a general contractor (GC) at a mid-sized construction company (who wished to remain anonymous) recently discovered that one of their vendors was reselling its data. To add insult to injury, the vendor was reselling the data to subcontractors, providing them with a complete view into how much the GC was bidding on the job. For the subcontractor, the data is invaluable, providing insight for negotiating a higher rate. For the GC, this is subterfuge, especially since the numbers don’t reflect a subcontractor’s skillset. For example, if a GC has prior experience with a subcontractor and a record of their past performance on projects, they may choose to pay a higher or lower rate to earn a better profit based on productivity. When the construction tech vendor resells the GC’s data, they not only compromise their privacy, their also put their business and reputation at risk.
In 2018, during Mark Zuckerberg’s Senate hearing on data privacy, everybody quickly understood what is meant by, “when it’s free, you’re the product.” The difference with construction tech is that GCs aren’t used to thinking of the technology they use at work in the same context of technology they may use after hours. This, along with getting comfortable with using technology on a job site, makes them vulnerable to having their privacy compromised.
Other times, the exposure of user data is not deliberate. It’s the result of shoddy software development. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, a slew of technology solutions emerged for taking temperatures, conducting health screenings, and contact tracing. The breakneck pace of developing a product to get ahead of a rapidly moving virus led to some gaps in protecting user data within certain applications. However, as we all began to adjust to living and working through a pandemic, the technology has become increasingly sophisticated with greater privacy protections and layers of security. Those construction tech providers that have not refined or evolved their solutions are missing opportunities.
Take for example Archway, a Brisbane, Australia-based commercial office design firm. They’re currently in the middle of winter and a rise in COVID-19 cases. For this company’s employees and clients, they are diligently requiring everybody digitally check in and take a health screening. This way, they have a record of everybody who is or was onsite. When they took a closer look at one solution for digital check in, they quickly realized that the data for every person at every single company that ever checked in using the vendor’s technology was easily accessible. This resulted in Archway selecting a different QR code check in app.
Going beyond the obvious benefits of health screenings and contact tracing, Archway can also customize the questions when people arrive. Those questions can include vaccination status or non-pandemic related questions such as confirmation the employee viewed and agree to a compliance policy, for example. The longer term benefits of having a digital record including safety, reconciling hours with invoices, and protecting the employees and company, should an incident arise onsite.
For these reasons, GCs and other decision makers in the company need to know how their technology providers will manage and protect their personal and business data through a construction and maintenance daily log. On the plus side, most vendor privacy policies are easy to find through a quick search. However, policies are updated and changed. Therefore, it’s up to the GC to revisit the policies of their construction daily log app on a regular basis. Or simply choose to work with a vendor like Safe Site Check In which integrates with Procore construction management software. Both firms are committed to protecting customer data.