The Sprint Business Mobility Framework is a service that tracks employees’ movements. It sends out alerts to management when they stray outside the designated Geofence and reports a “breadcrumb” trail of where they have been. Finally, it can tell managers which employee is nearest to a given point in the event of a service need – think the nearest taxi or plumber.
I’ve written about these kind of employee tracking devices before and especially about the insensitivity of the companies promoting such schemes. Their CEOs frequently make really funny quips about electric shock therapy and just manage to stop chortling about death squads to round up straying employees.
I’ve also pointed out that studies show that when employees are trusted, productivity increases. The opposite is true; when you patently don’t trust people and use this kind of technology, you’re encouraging them to try to beat the system. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that these systems track devices, not people. So just as we used to clock mates in and clock them out, in the old days of punching bits of card, some employees will find themselves sitting in a warehouse surrounded by colleagues’ mobile phones on Friday afternoons.
If your company is considering one of these services, you have a real personnel issue at the heart of the company and there’s nothing for it – your Board of Directors must resign at once. Anyone who confuses treating a symptom, rather than the disease itself, simply lacks judgment.
In the UK, privacy died years ago as we happily allowed “them” to install CCTV cameras everywhere. So much so, that the average citizen living or working in an urban area gets filmed 70 or so times a day. This has led, among other things, to a rise in hoodies and base ball caps as fashion items among kids, as they seek to avoid identification.
Sure, wearing a hoodie doesn’t make you a criminal. But just as low slung jeans was a homage to the hard homies who had gone to jail (and had their belts taken away) in urban America, hoodies nod at the hard kids who wear them with crime in mind.
And now Bliar wants everyone to carry ID cards. A truly unbelievable waste of public money, as what all these things have in common is that the crims always find a way ’round them and ordinary citizens are inconvenienced.
Next, we have the camera phone in every pocket – and soon it’ll be a video phone. This means that any crime or private moment has a very good chance of being filmed. You snog your girlfriend with a bit of passion, to find a couple of kids are filming you. Or they preempt the action with a little Happy Slapping.
Sting recently had to abandon a skiing holiday, as he was fed up with the crowd of amateur paparazzi following him around.
Russell Beattie was also violated this week, privacy-wise. While he was trying to activate his Boost mobile phone account, he was asked such intrusions as the age of his father and brother – not information he had ever given them.
The other area that springs to mind in this little rant is reputation. One of the next big boom areas (just my opinion) is online reputation management systems. These will collate data on all of us, specifically for prospective employees. Not only will resume/CV accuracy be monitored factually, colleagues’ and managers’ opinions might be collected, leaving no room to hide.
While you might reasonably object to having your name on these databases and possibly even succeed in requesting removal, this may be like being asked to be removed from the employment market altogether. After all, if you ask for removal, you must, de facto, have something to hide.
It’s bad enough having your credit constantly monitored if the company has made a mistake and downgrades you. Apparently, it can take months to get it corrected. But suppose effectively your “right to work” gets accidentally compromised or deliberately so, by a colleague with a grudge?
Finally, while defenders of these systems say that “law abiding citizens have nothing to hide,” this is only relatively true in a democracy. If we ever see a return to some of the regimes (of the left or right) that dominated Europe last century, such exhaustive information on every citizen would make Big Brother look optimistic. And if you automatically think that Big Brother is the TV programme, go and read the complete works of Orwell now and sit at the back of the class until you’ve finished.
While we may think a return to those politics are impossible these days, I don’t think we can be complacent. These schemes all make the rise of such regimes much, much easier than in the past. “Information is power” and all that.
I started this rant about LBS tracking for employees (and let’s throw in child tracking as well – evil trade that it is). But please don’t think I’m against LBS generally – I think it’ll add huge value to our lives and enrich society in many ways. But like all technology, there are good and bad uses for it.
Very often it’s the obvious uses that are inappropriate, while the good ones take a little more thought and crafting to emerge.
Let’s pray that the good uses win out in the end.
Via W2 Forum (subscription required)