WeWork’s First 2019 Acquisition Raises Workplace Privacy Concerns

WeWork is stepping away from unprofitable coworking memberships and into the software-as-a-service sector.
  • In its first acquisition of 2019, WeWork has taken over a data platform that tracks people’s identity and behavior.
  • The deal appears to distance WeWork from its better-known coworking memberships model and instead focus on software-as-a-service.
  • The question about privacy focuses on the identification of individuals, who can access the data, and how it will be used.

Late last week, WeWork acquired Euclid, a data platform that tracks the identity and behavior of people in the physical world, for an undisclosed amount. TechCrunch was first to report.

According to TechCrunch, “the deal is clearly an effort to move WeWork further away from merely selling memberships to its co-working spaces — a risky business model in a sour economy — and instead also become a software-as-a-service provider.”

Euclid’s technology will be used in WeWork locations and it will also be offered to companies who aren’t leasing space from WeWork but want to create a sort of WeWork experience. WeWork’s chief product officer, Shiva Rajaraman, stated that the technology will be part of WeWork’s “workplace insights” analytics software.

The idea is to use Euclid’s technology together with Teem, the meeting booking software WeWork acquired a few months ago.

Rajaraman phrased it the following way, “We’re moving toward a Google analytics for space and making sure rooms are used the right way.” And although it makes sense for companies to want to understand how space is used and how to optimize that usage, Euclid’s technology raises questions about privacy, especially considering individuals could be identified when using the software.

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To this, Rajaraman stated that, “We’re committed to respecting the privacy of our members and these employees. We’re looking at the aggregate level to understand how space is being used. We’re less interested in the individual. If I throw a large party, I’m interested in knowing why 40 people showed up versus 100; it’s not as interesting to see who individually showed up.”

Rather than being seen as an overvalued real estate company, the We Company is hoping to convince the public and investors that it is a data-driven company in order to justify its high valuation.

The question about privacy isn’t just about whether individuals can be identified; it is also about who can access the data acquired and how it will be used.

WeWork is yet to be profitable and it’s hoping this new offering, combined with its white-labeled solution for medium-sized companies, will change this reality.

Euclid’s technology will be tested in WeWork locations in Shanghai, Tel Aviv, New York and San Francisco before being rolled out in other locations and to external clients.

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