Activision Blizzard is using health tracking technology on its employees, according to a new report, and the voluntary service even goes so far as to monitor employee pregnancy. The company has been using health tracking technology since 2014, when it began to encourage employees to use Fitbit activity trackers.
Activision Blizzard is one of the largest publishers and developers in the industry, with the Blizzard component of the organization remaining one of the most well-known and respected studios in gaming. Activision's practices have come under fire recently after the company announced record profits before firing hundreds of employees in the same breath, and the publisher's frayed relationship has become increasingly clearer after a messy split from Bungie left Activision without access to the lucrative Destiny IP. Now, there's a fair amount of criticism that's rightfully frightened over a perceived invasion of employee privacy, even if the process is strictly voluntary, as Activision has stated.
According to a report featured in a Washington Post article on Ovia, a pregnancy tracking app, Activision Blizzard has an extensive list of health tracking tools that it encourages its employees to opt in on. According to the article, Activision Blizzard uses health trackers that inquire over mental health, sleep habits, diet, and autism and cancer care. When it comes to Ovia, Activision Blizzard offers $1 a day in gift cards to employees who decide to use it. The app tracks women attempting to conceive through after birth, and the information it acquires includes sleep schedule, diet, weight, mood, the appearance of their cervical fluid, and even when they're having sex. According to Activision Blizzard VP of global benefits Milt Ezzard, though, employees have received the technology well:
"Each time we introduced something, there was a bit of an outcry: 'You're prying into our lives.' But we slowly increased the sensitivity of stuff, and eventually people understood it's all voluntary, there's no gun to your head, and we're going to reward you if you choose to do it."
There are, obviously, a number of concerns about this kind of practice. Privacy advocates have pointed out that use of these apps could allow employers to discriminate against employees who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant—according to the report, the publisher averages around 50 employees tracking pregnancies at any one time, and even with anonymous data, it's possible that the company could narrow down whose report they are looking at. Another concern is the security of apps like Ovia. An ovulation-tracking app called Glow infamously allowed anyone to access a user's information—including daily alcohol consumption and sexual habits down to position preference—by simply knowing what their email address was.
Companies like Activision Blizzard maintain that these apps allow them to save on health costs, as women who use these tracking tools might be able to avoid expensive infertility treatments and complicated births, the latter of which can incur costs of over $1 million USD. But when execs like Ezzard describe the start of human life as "great for our business experience," it's fair to wonder whether these companies really have their employees best interests at heart. Health tracking software reveals so many of the things companies wouldn't normally have access to that it's probably closer to selling valuable information for literal dollars a day than it is helping establish a healthier workplace, and as practices like these continue to grow, it's a terrifying prospect altogether.
Source: Washington Post