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Privacy Technology

Bosses Keep Sharp Eye on Mobile Workers 232

Posted by michael
from the panopticon dept.
camusflage writes "AP is running a story on the penetration of GPS devices and monitoring of fleet operations. Such technology is hitting the mainstream, with UPS distributing 100,000 GPS-enabled handhelds 'to alert them when they're at the wrong address.' One driver is quoted saying, 'It's kind of like Big Brother is watching a little bit. But it's where we're heading in this society.' Needless to say, the Teamsters weigh in on the negative side on the whole thing."
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Bosses Keep Sharp Eye on Mobile Workers

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  • by dustinbarbour (721795) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:03PM (#11223112) Homepage
    ..then you need to be doing only business related tasks. That is unless you have an understanding with your employer. Period. Kaput. Nothing else to see here.. yadi yadi yada.
    • by stupidfoo (836212) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:16PM (#11223241)
      Notice who posted this? Michael of course. Another big business is bad, poor little employees. Oh, and lets look to the our uncorrupt and pure friends at the Teamsters union for comfort and help.

      Why shouldn't a company be able to know where their truck and equipment and products are?

      Like another poster said, it's not as if they're tracking their employees when they're at home.
      • Hmm, interesting question. Ok, so lets say that you are driving. You delivered five packages out of fifteen. The first five packages took most of the morning. Because of where the packages are delivered you decide to take an early lunch because there is a restaurant you like. Then after lunch you deliver most of the packages. Here's the question because you took an early lunch does not mean you are not doing your job.

        Here is another example, you are very efficient at your job, and because of it can t
        • The problem with these attitudes is that does not work. You cannot control people and expect efficiency.

          Um, sorry, but no. The truth is exactly the opposite of what you claim. Accountability, at all levels of an organization, inevitably leads to higher efficiency and increased productivity. I've seen it with mine own eyes over and over again.

          Another note: In both of your fictional cases, you assume that the driver is getting measured based on time spent working - that would be the wrong approach IMO -
          • Finally, I agree wholeheartedly with your last point - humans are not robots, and there are often other circumstances - but that should not preclude giving managers the tools to they need to manage.

            But I think very often it has nothing to do with "the need to manage", but rather with the need for managers to feel that they're doing something, even when it's actually counter-productive for the company as a whole (though it can be in the manager's best interest by giving him something to cover his ass with
        • "Here is another example, you are very efficient at your job, and because of it can take a long lunch hour. Your boss realizes this and decides to give you more packages than somebody who is slower. However, instead of increasing your pay you just get more packages. Is that fair?"

          You can program twice as fast as the next guy, so they give you twice as much work at the same wage.

          Fair or not, it seems normal to me.
    • like the understanduing you have with your boss, reading /. on company time?

      There is (supposed to be) such a thing as trust. If you can't trust your employees without watching them all the time then a little lost time is the least of your problems.

      Sure, in some targeted cases, do the monitoring to back up a hunch that someone is goofing off too much, but don't monitor everyone all the time just in case someone sometime might be abusing your trust.

      oh what am I talking about, this isn't surveilance f
  • by exhilaration (587191) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:04PM (#11223120)
    It's unfortunate that this is happening but I don't see a backlash happening any time soon. The job market is too tight and most people will just roll over and accept it until it's so pervasive that we won't remember what life was like without the leash around our necks. Kinda like marriage.
    • How is this unfortunate?
      • How is this unfortunate?

        Because it is kind of creepy for adults to accept being treated like kindergartners for the sake of increased efficiency.

        There is no argument that tracking fleet operations can result in greater efficiency and greater profit, but who cares. This kind of tracking is insulting and dehumanizing. Construction workers and garbage men and the like will use the fleet van to return movies and take an extra 30 minutes for lunch, this sort of tracking will only serve to make a job that i

    • The job market is too tight and most people will just roll over and accept it until it's so pervasive that we won't remember what life was like without the leash around our necks.

      Ummm, monitoring location is a little different than having a leash around your neck. Does the employer have any rights? Are you saying the employer can't find a different job? Are you saying 5.6% unemployment is high? Are you completely and utterly out of your mind?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:04PM (#11223124)
    GPS is a Godsend to most folks. I use my tomtom GPS with my Palm tungsten in the car ALL the time. You can keep GPS info for most of the first world on a 1gb SD flash card (less than $100 these days) and never need to worry about getting lost.

    Cheers,
  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:05PM (#11223134) Journal
    Of course the Teamsters don't like it... I can see it now... "So, either of you fellows care to explain why you drove the delivery van over to Mario Calienti's office and then drove it and a cement mixer over to the waterfront?"
  • by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:05PM (#11223137) Homepage Journal
    How is this an issue? Explain to me, please, how having oversight of the people you're supposed to have oversight on is a bad thing? Guess what? We track our employees via time clocks, quality assurance, and production quotes. We know where they are all the time while they're here, and if we don't, they're punished for being somewhere they're not supposed to be.

    Yet another example of the reason that slashbot crowd simply does not have it's collective head planted anywhere near reality. If you have a problem with your employer making sure you're doing your bloody job, then quit. Be unemployed. When this starts to become an issue of people trying to monitor their employees in their homes or when they're off the clock or something, let me know.

    I have a new opinion of the YRO section: anything that appears in it, especially if it's posted by Comrade Censorific Sims, is something that doesn't matter, and I shouldn't care about. This section is only good for keeping me up to date on all the things that aren't an issue and nobody needs to know about.
    • "How is this an issue? Explain to me, please, how having oversight of the people you're supposed to have oversight on is a bad thing?" You must be glad you're smart, but not as smart as Alphas because Alphas work too hard... You do look glum! What you need is a gramme of soma.
    • I bet the submitter and most people posting in this thread are not familiar with a concept such as "time clock" or that you're not supposed to loiter around or conduct personal business on company time.
    • As long as my boss is in 8 to 5 and never off playing golf on the occasional Friday afternoon...

      While I generally agree with the opinion the most are overreacting, this is an issue as it moves the focus from someone doing their job [production] to simple attendance. It likely won't help oversight, instead likely will just be another example of people [low level managers in this case] using technology as a crutch instead of actually doing *their* job.
    • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:19PM (#11223260) Homepage
      "When the bosses talk about improving productivity, they are never talking about themselves"
    • by Herkum01 (592704) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:19PM (#11223263)

      The question for me is when you give executives millions in salary and stock options and they have little oversight of their actions. You do not have to look too far to see this behavior (Lord Black, the paper baron or Micheal Eisner handing away a $140 million severance package). These are people in charge of hundred of millions of dollars.

      A GPS system to micromanage a $10-20/hour employee seems to be small potatoes.

      • by stupidfoo (836212) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:25PM (#11223313)
        $15 an hour * 100,000 truck drivers = $1.5 million an hour

        $1.5 million an hour * 40 hours / week * 52 weeks /year = $3,120,000,000

        A little bit more than the money they pay their execs.
        • Yes, but be realistic. Every single driver isn't going to slack off and not do their job every single hour of every single day for an entire year. I agree it's still a lot of money, but it's nowhere near 3 billion dollars.
        • Actually anyone that is familiar with UPS managment would now that they are one of the most "socialist" companies around. I would be surprised if the CEO of UPS is making greater than 2 million. The upper managment is paid much lower than upper managment of other fortune 500 companies. Also the way to upper managment to UPS is by starting off as packager and working your way up. In the long run the UPS employees make out much better as their bennefits are extremely good. Chances are an employee that w
        • Taking a reference from the New York Times [nytimes.com]

          Enron was a substantial pipeline company long before the frauds appear to have begun there. But it now appears that Parmalat, like CUC International, was able to grow so large only because its longtime auditors failed to discover a fraud that went on for over a decade. That gave the company the ability to use stock for acquisitions.

          The CUC fraud, which involved the creation of $500 million in phony profits in the three years before it was discovered in 1998,

    • You're exactly right. You know why this type of thing is needed? Two reasons.
      1. They have a very real need to track their trucks and packages.
      2. Employees like to slack off. We all do it, and the majority of us all do it more when we're on the road.
      • Just as long as you aren't slacking off reading Slashdot while you're on the road. You might confuse your turn signal for a flamer (I won't judge you on whether you consider it a flame on the left or on the right.)
    • by wwest4 (183559) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:33PM (#11223375)
      > If you have a problem with your employer making sure you're doing your
      > bloody job, then quit.

      Aren't there more black-box ways of determining whether I've done my job without gathering extraneous information that invades my privacy? I see problems with the Big Brother approach as not dealing with root cause.

      Example: At my workplace, we have a loser who is significantly less productive than his counterparts. He pisses his day away looking at the Internet, talking at the water cooler, forwarding unfunny internet apocrypha and jokes to everyone, and eating 15 meals a day.

      He eventually gets his work done, but he does it so slowly, that he is not worth his salary.

      Instead of enacting policy that cripples everyone else in order to deal with his particular loafing strategies, doesn't it make a lot more sense to fire him for not earning his compensation, barring a better excuse (health, etc)?

      No. Why? The litigious nature of our culture? Personal feelings interfering with management objectivity? Who knows. Whatever it is, I'd like to find out so that I don't have to implement another custom snort filter or whitelist instead of just firing the loser.

      The flip side of this is that it disallows me from accepting a job that is easy for me. If I choose to work at Joe's Tape Backup Emporium, and I am compensated for the duration of my time pushing catrtidges, and my work requirements are met, I don't see why I cannot read a book during the downtime (can't leave, but I'm idle). Just because I'm capable of exceeding my quota, while Johhny Newbie has to concentrate 100% just to match me at 50% effort, does not mean I should be compelled to share the benefit of my personal efficiency with my employer if he does not compensate me more than Johnny. If he's not paying me more for my efficiency, why does he care if I'm reading or staring at the screen? The right answer is that he shouldn't, but he does because people like getting shit for free. However, I see no justification of the position that you must work until it's a grind for you. And that's what pervasive monitoring could lead to, because it's always in the employers' interest to squeeze you for all you're worth at the cheapest possible price.

      • You're insane. This article is about more granluar tracking of fleet operations.

        Truckfulls of packages that have to be a certain place by a certain time.

        Is all of Slashdot this stupid, or did the smarty men just take a vacation?
      • Example: At my workplace, we have a loser who is significantly less productive than his counterparts. He pisses his day away looking at the Internet, talking at the water cooler, forwarding unfunny internet apocrypha and jokes to everyone, and eating 15 meals a day.

        The REAL problem here, is your management, who apparently don't have an effective way of measuring employee productivity, and applying it to employee hiring/retention/compensation practices.

        If you have a slacking co-worker, you're right to be
        • I agree that management is the problem, in two ways

          1) (Which you alluded to) is that there is no accountability in the productivity measurements. No comparison of deliverables to hours reported. Without that, there is no data to assist decisions concerning compensation and retention.

          2) Policing punishes/exploits all for the sins of few.

          > Incompetent managers deserve far more to be fired than slacking workers.

          I think that decision should be based solely on whether or not you fulfill the expectations f
          • "1) (Which you alluded to) is that there is no accountability in the productivity measurements. No comparison of deliverables to hours reported. Without that, there is no data to assist decisions concerning compensation and retention."

            Won't help if you have bad management. Sure they will have numbers. But if they know they are goofing off NOW and not firing them, why would hard numbers help? The problem with numbers are many including: do they mean anything, will you act on them.

            "I think that decision sho
      • Aren't there more black-box ways of determining whether I've done my job without gathering extraneous information that invades my privacy?

        What privacy? Seriously? I pay you work for me, then, dammit, you work for me. Why is this so difficult for people to understand? You can have your privacy in the john or off the clock.

        I see problems with the Big Brother approach as not dealing with root cause.

        There's some truth to that. But I think it makes sense to use a complete approach, and that may includ

        • > What privacy? Seriously? I pay you work for me, then, dammit, you work for
          > me.

          You pay me to do a job, then I do the job. You don't own me just because I'm on your payroll.

          > Why is this so difficult for people to understand?
          Because it's antithetical to the western liberal notion that to work is to accomplish a task - not to submit our minds and bodies for contiguous chunks of time. That's not employment, that's indentured servitude.

          > You can have your privacy in the john or off the clock.

          D
      • "Example: At my workplace, we have a loser who is significantly less productive than his counterparts. He pisses his day away looking at the Internet, talking at the water cooler, forwarding unfunny internet apocrypha and jokes to everyone, and eating 15 meals a day."

        Hey, that almost sounds like a manager where I work... Well, maybe more than one... The same ones that will yell at workers to "look busy" rather than change the system to ensure a constant work flow. Guess that is not their job. :)
      • by The FooMiester (466716) <goimir&endlesshills,org> on Thursday December 30, 2004 @08:41PM (#11224314) Homepage Journal
        Aren't there more black-box ways of determining whether I've done my job without gathering exraneous information that invades my privacy? I see problems with the Big Brother approach as not dealing with root cause.

        How better to figure out where someone is at a given time than a GPS unit that phones home? What other black-box solution do you suggest? Alot of them are already carrying the hardware needed to impliment this(nextel phones do it for one).

        Invades YOUR privacy? How about protecting the owner of the company's assets?

        Instead of enacting policy that cripples everyone else

        How does a black box in a truck, or a cellphone that you carry anyway cripple anyone? Or did I just get trolled
        • > What other black-box solution do you suggest?

          I have a Timex Ironman GPS/watch combo. The watch is programmed only to give me results. It doesn't provide any position data, but it's still a useful training tool because it provides speed info. Do you see what I'm getting at?

          > Invades YOUR privacy? How about protecting the owner of the company's assets?

          How about a happy medium? Is the latter all that matters?

          > How does a black box in a truck, or a cellphone that you carry anyway cripple
          > anyo
    • The idea obviously appeals to some people.

      Other people don't like it.

      Either you like the idea, don't like the idea, or are somewhere in between liking or not liking the idea.

      In order to be happy at your job, or life in general - in order to be able to set any kind of goal for yourself at all regarding what type of environment you would like to work in you need to just be honest about where you stand on the issue. It's really not that big a deal, other than if you like the idea, you should try getting a j
  • by nizo (81281) * on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:06PM (#11223153) Homepage Journal
    This past summer, for example, managers at Metropolitan Lumber & Hardware in New York worried when a new driver dispatched to a delivery just six blocks away still hadn't arrived after 3 1/2 hours. But using GPS, dispatchers soon tracked him down, "goofing off" on the other side of Manhattan, said Larry Charity, the company's information technology manager.

    Remember, the way to get out of this is to lock yourself in your trunk when the boss shows up.


    I am looking forward to an automatted "potty tracker" that keeps track of how often I and my coworkers visit the restroom each day. Maybe everyone can give their tracking devices to the new intern (wow look everyone is in the bathroom at the same time).

    • I am looking forward to an automatted "potty tracker" that keeps track of how often I and my coworkers visit the restroom each day.

      It's called the "The Active Badge Location System", and Xerox developed it.

    • Well, I'm glad the managers were so concerned that it only took them over 3 hours to determine the driver was late. If this happens, there are only a few LIKELY reasons: vehicle problem (aka accident/collision), employee goofing off, employee clueless (went to wrong address), company clueless (actually failed to dispatch, gave wrong address), customer clueless (actually delivered hours ago), others....

      I mean a manager could have got in a car and driven the route (or WALKED) and they would have discovered t
    • Your point made me think of something else: if one of those tracked trucks gets into accident, and the company does not respond _immediately_ by sending out aid (and they are capable of that, since they have all the necessary information), does that mean they are liable?

      I can see it now: "So here the log shows how the truck went from 60MPh to 0MPh in less than a second, which can only be caused by hitting a solid, non-yielding object, yet it took the company three hours before they called an ambulance for

  • for counting every minute that they might or might not be on or off duty and holding that against them

    And the problem with that is... what? If you're on the company time, you're not supposed to be "goofing off on the other side of Manhattan" way off your route.

    As long as the terms of tracking are put into the contract, I don't see any problem with that. You know what you'll be signing for.

    • by NanoGator (522640)
      "And the problem with that is... what?"

      False hits.

      At my previous job, I was busted once for reading Slashdot at work. Stupid thing was, the one time they caught me, I was actually doing work. I was looking at the source code for the home page to solve a problem I was having with the website I was working on. Sadly, I had two monitors, and my boss looked at the left one with the web page on it and not the right one with the source code.

      In the end, I was able to explain to my boss what I was up to and
  • by reallocate (142797) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:11PM (#11223192)
    Can't recall the name, but remember reading several years ago about a U.S. trucking firm that did real-time tracking of all its trucks, monitored their fuel consumption, speed, how long it took of load and offload, if they deviated from the designated route or schedule, etc. Apparently resulted in serious efficiencies and serious revenue, with little grousing from drivers.

    This doesn't seem to me to be a grievous problem. Employees don't have the right to use the boss's time and property as they choose.
    • So how long does it take for the Union workers to figure out if they all work really slow they can still stick it to the company GPS or not.
      If they can all bring down the stats collectively then what is a company going to do.
      Don't get me wrong I think trying to get more work out of your workers is a great idea but there are better way to encourage them to do it other than with a chair and whip.
      • A slowdown would not work. The time it tool to complete a job wasn't determined by the drivers.

        In reference to that trucking company, the company mandated that drivers adhere to the posted speed limit (their actual speed was tracked), follow predetermined routes, etc. Drivers couldn't drive more than a specified number of hours each day (8, I believe).

        In other words, the company said "Take this truck from A to B, starting at such-and-such a time and arriving X hours later." They knew the route, the speed,
    • Can't recall the name, but remember reading several years ago about a U.S. trucking firm that did real-time tracking of all its trucks, monitored their fuel consumption, speed, how long it took of load and offload, if they deviated from the designated route or schedule, etc. Apparently resulted in serious efficiencies and serious revenue, with little grousing from drivers.

      You're right.

      It was covered in Wired some years ago. IIRC, the article was primarily about Schneider National and the company's effor
    • It's not just one U.S. trucking firm. Nearly all I've run into and worked for do it using a system from Qualcomm. JB Hunt, Werner, Swift, C.R. England and Schneider to my knowledge do it. It doesn't cause grousing for a couple reasons.

      -- In the event of mechanical trouble, the trucker can be located even easier.
      -- The system itself allows realtime communication with the dispatcher and other groups within the company. In some cases, it even allows truck to truck communication.
      -- The GPS allows the driv
    • Apparently resulted in serious efficiencies and serious revenue, with little grousing from drivers.

      I know the system you're talking about--read a big long article about it at the time. The company also had a policy that if a driver was more than 15 minutes late more than twice in a year, he could be fired--this is cross-country trucking! And yet the drivers didn't complain, because the GPS and communications were their link into an awesome backend support system. Any mechanical problem, any traffic jam, a
  • by nizo (81281) * on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:11PM (#11223195) Homepage Journal
    UPS Inc., for example, will distribute new hand-held computers to its 100,000 U.S. delivery truck drivers early next year..

    I wonder how hard it would be for a third party to get this information? Knowing exactly where a big van full of boxes of stuff is right now would make it quite a bit easier to pillage said truck wouldn't it? Or maybe a competitor could conveniently get people to interfere with traffic and slow them down along their routes, things like that.

    • Completely unrelated, any word on when they will give these things to armored trucks...
    • Boy, wouldn't it be hard to give UPS drivers crap to deal with by getting in front of the big brown truck and driving slowly?

      How does GPS help this? Someone also hacks the traffic light system so they can slow it down remotely?
    • I wonder how hard it would be for a third party to get this information?

      Not very, but then what?

      Knowing exactly where a big van full of boxes of stuff is right now would make it quite a bit easier to pillage said truck wouldn't it?

      Nah, they all run regular routes anyway. Don't need a secret link to the GPS tracker system to know the UPS truck is coming down a certain road at the same time every day.

      Or maybe a competitor could conveniently get people to interfere with traffic and slow them down along

      • I dunno about UPS, but FedEX offers a "before 10am" service, which causes the driver to meander all over town driving like a bat out of hell to get all the packages delivered before 10am. But otherwise yeah they have a standard route.
    • There was a trial service with something similar to this, but I don't remember which service [fedex, DHL, UPS, etc]. They received an email notification as the truck was approaching their house. They could sign up for notifications 5, 10, 15 minutes before. Very cool if you live upstairs or work nearby and want to grab/sign for a delivery!
    • ...not like it's hard to find one anyway. Just go to that big brown and yellow building near the airport with "UPS" on the outside about 7:00am. Follow one of the big brown trucks that pulls out of the lot.
  • by Datasage (214357) * <Datasage@thew o r l d i s g r e y .com> on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:13PM (#11223215) Homepage Journal
    Considering i had a recent delivery taht was supposed to be deleivred before christmas. It was, but to the wrong address. I dont really mind of delivery companies start using GPS to help verify correct addresses. Well thats until the GPS system says you are at the wrong place when you are not.

    But from the other side, Is it really and diffrent than being in an office where you are being watched by your boss anyway?
  • At my work.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by doormat (63648) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:16PM (#11223235) Homepage Journal
    We've been tracking our field staff using Airlink CDMA PinPoint [airlink.com] modems. Not only does it provide our field staff with cellular-based internet access for our web-based field applications, but it also provides us with GPS coordinates of the device every 5 seconds. It also came in handy when one of our trucks was stolen a while back, it was easy to track it and find it. We just cant wait 'til they upgrade the modems from 1xRTT to 1xEVDO. 200kbit/s wireless access!
  • This was for a trash / dumpster company that wanted to monitor their employees driving habits.

    The funny thing was overtime fell from 10 hrs / week (per employee) to 1 or 2 hrs / week once people knew they were being watched.

    The other funny thing was the guy we caught going to his GF's house for a noon-er. Imagine that, pulling up for some lovin in a 2-ton garbage truck.

  • Real purpose of GPS (Score:4, Informative)

    by asifyoucare (302582) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:20PM (#11223269)
    I work for a company that is fitting GPS devices to concrete trucks. The purpose of these devices is not to spy on employees (though it does enable that), but to schedule deliveries better.

    If the truck is held up in traffic we will know about it, and allocate the next load to a truck that hasn't been delayed.

  • Unless you regularly do personal business on your boss' transportation dime, you have no reason to object to this when used on company time and/or company vehicles. This is no invasion of your personal privacy, and there is no attack on your personal rights. Do your personal shit on your own time and money.

    And seeing the volumes of stories in the news about workers slacking off on the job, its no surprise that the Teamsters would oppose the idea.
    • Actually, I'd like to see it tied to their logs.

      If a commercial driver is on the road, he or she is required to be logging his or her time for driver fatigue reasons. A GPS that simply started a clock at the departure from a scheduled point, and stopped it on arrival at a destination (with subtractions if the GPS stops moving for 15 or more minutes) would let drivers squeeze every possible minute of their allowed drive time (it wouldn't count against them if they were unloading, for example) but would st

  • by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:23PM (#11223301) Homepage
    Before everybody jumps about the privacy concerns, let me explain something.

    This is in regards to business. These businesses have a SUBSTANTIAL investment in their fleet, and in the service they provide. If you owned one of these companies, wouldn't you be a bit ticked off if your employees were racking up non-business related miles on your vehicles, putting them at more risk for accidents, and reducing the overall efficiency of your business?

    Thats what I thought. If you're on company time using company resources, don't expect any privacy. I mean, I personally feel there should be a limit...I mean, I don't want to get written up for taking too much time in the bathroom or socializing a bit with employees, but in a case where you're on the road in company property, that is a very different situation.

  • For example, if your job is to use a computer all day, your boss has a right to know what you are using the computer for (i.e. are you using it to work or are you using it to look at pornography or slashdot or to play solitare).

    Its the same thing here, these employers want to know where you are when you are on company time.
    If you are not where your job requires you to be, you are not doing your job and therefore you can be fired. Simple as that.

    This is not "big brother". This is an employer wanting to mak
  • While knee-jerk reaction is to ban these type of devices from a good amount of people, they can be of great use.

    You have to figure, your at work to work. Weather its working on code or delivering packages. Now, a break every now and then (web surfing, or stopping by a 7-11) is most likley not a bad thing (depending on how anal your boss is), however, you still are there to work. Surfing porn all day or going to your girlfriends house to get laid when you are suppose to be driving is not exactly a good thi

    • "I doubt, however, that most of these companies are using them to spy on their drivers, the benifits (better schedualing, accident handling, tracking if stolen) are outweigh the drawbacks for people yelling about their privacy. Its the way things are heading, and if done right, can make things a bit better."

      You know, the privacy aspects don't really concern me (I'm at work anyway...) These systems, IF USED INTELLIGENTLY, can be great. If the point is to determine system bottlenecks, route improvements, etc
  • by buckhead_buddy (186384) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:32PM (#11223369)
    This is definitely an anomolous situation, but I bet it'll only add to my problems in the future.

    My addresss is almost impossible to find. Physically, it's nestled back in some woods and looks somewhat like the entrance to the (Adam West/Burt Ward) Batcave. The problem is that it's also next to an expensive club that wanted a more exclusive address and was able to get the short extension of road we sit on changed to the exact name of a more expensive road nearby. This was an insane political maneuver, but money talks and they wanted an address that sounded exclusive rather than redneck.

    All of the locals and long time residents can find my address if I tell them the "wrong" address. Map readers or locals who are told the "correct" address won't find it because they go to an address on the other road that's slightly transposed numerically from my house number.

    The utility men use long time residents to read my meters but if I go into an office to pay my bill and ask them to look up my address I have to be prepared to wait for 30 minutes of tellers asking managers for help in finding the information.

    While I can see why a manager would want to have full control and knowledge over a delivery person, I bet this will have a detrimental effect on getting my packages delivered. I already tell people to avoid sending me things via FedEx since they repeatedly can not find any address I give them. I'll send a few packages by UPS after this policy goes into effect and see if I need to add UPS to my "DO NOT SHIP" list.
    • Reminds me of a story I heard about OnStar.

      It seems there was a guy up in North Dakota out ice fishing that locked his keys in his pickup. He had OnStar, so he called them up and asked that they unlock the truck so he could get in out of the cold.

      The operator said "Uh. Do you know that you're in the middle of a lake?"

  • Good for employers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dschl (57168) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:34PM (#11223383) Homepage
    How does it differ from an employer viewing the logs to see which websites I visit during the day, and how long I spend doing it? Or your grocery store counting the number of items scanned per hour by a checkout clerk? Or a weekly review of sales figures for car salesmen? I believe that it doesn't, and it is routine to expect employer oversight in a workplace - this is merely a new form, that's all. The employer is paying you to do a task, using their equipment - it is reasonable for them to ensure that you are doing it properly and safely. Their shareholders and insurers expect no less in order to maximize returns and minimize risk. Got a retirement savings plan, and expect high annual returns? That makes you a typical faceless shareholder.

    There are other places where it would be handy - transit systems could use it to nail bus drivers who decide to run 5 minutes early, or catch up from time lost on their cigarette break by driving recklessly. I've experienced a city bus driver trying to make up lost time by driving a 10 or 20 ton bus more than 20km/h over the speed limit (faster than I routinely drive my car) - when I got off at the next stop I was sure to let him know that I didn't feel safe, and was waiting for the next bus solely because of his reckless driving.

    If the location and time were logged , the transit system would have had solid data to prove how fast he was driving, and could have taken appropriate disciplinary action. Just knowing that the speed and timing data are recorded could add safety, and ensure that buses don't run too early or late. The only thing worse than waiting 15 minutes for a late bus is having to wait 15 minutes for the next bus because a driver chose to ignore his timing points.

  • by syslog (535048) <naeem.bari@cc> on Thursday December 30, 2004 @06:44PM (#11223469)
    <shameless plug>

    We (www.agilissystems.com) make software that can GPS track cell phones and beam jobs down to them. There are some pretty cool advantages to this tech beyond just tracking people. The following illustrates this:

    One of our customers is a large midwest grocery chain that has a fleet of trucks that deliver all kinds of groceries to their stores. All the drivers carry our GPS tracked cell phones - the cell phones lists the jobs (deliveries) that the driver has to do that day. As soon as a driver is done delivering at one store, the system automatically calls the next store in line (using VOIP via Asterisk, no less :) with the estimated arrival time. The store preps its loading dock to receive the truck. This allows them to turn the truck around quicker than they could otherwise. This leads directly to significant savings (more deliveries per truck, fewer drivers needs etc etc). They don't care one zot of where their drivers are, just that their stores are ready to unload their trucks when they arrive.

    </shameless plug>

    Oh, and a quick note. Don't be fooled into thinking thats its only GPS enabled devices that can be tracked. We can (and do) track *regular* cell phones using cell tower triangulation as well

    -naeem

  • Nothing new (Score:2, Insightful)

    by danuary (748394)
    We equipped a fleet of vans with this kind of thing in the mid 90's. Seemed like a great idea -- GPS antenna and the van would radio its position to a central computer. We could tell which van was closest to a given job and assign it; the vans had laptops wired in as well.

    Everything went great until the first guy got fired because he was caught fishing (seriously) while on the clock.

    Shortly thereafter the techs realized the system could be defeated by wrapping the antenna atop their vans with tinfoil. M

  • I sometimes have to find equipment installations in unfamiliar areas, and during off-hours. It isn't exactly a pleasant feeling driving down a poorly-lit street looking for a poorly-marked address, working off a map that may or may not be correct. I would LOVE to be able to call up someone at the office and say "am I at the right place?"

    The teamsters *have* to fight it; if they ever portray any change as being beneficial for their membership, they give up the bargaining position and their cut of cost savin
  • Bah (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gorbash You (844924)
    I work for Roadway at a terminal in Bloomington California. I do not drive trucks, but I load them and I am a Teamster. It's hard for me to believe that the GPS systems are being used to monitor employees for abuse of time or whatever. On the dock that I work on we probably damage close to a million dollars worth of freight per day, with no repercussions. We also have cameras, but they can only be used for damages and theft, they cannot be used for abuse of company time, so I'd think the GPS rules woul
  • by ObiWonKanblomi (320618) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @07:01PM (#11223603) Journal
    This is a by-product of UPS's Industrial Engineering unit [ups-psi.com] with the aim of not keeping an eye on their employees as much as making sure packages are sent as quickly as possible.

    Without this unit you wouldn't have packages sent as quickly to you thanks to their research in creating systems to determine the shortest land route to deliver as many packages as possible [computerworld.com] or track packages [ups.com] accurately.

    This is with the aim of helping deliveries of your amazon product or thinkgeek gear get to you as quickly as possible. What's the problem with that?
  • Like any Technology, it has it's Good uses, and it's Evil uses.

    I don't mind my boss watching me to make sure I'm doing my work. As long as someone's watching my boss, making sure he/she's doing his/her work.

    More often than not, this isn't the case, unfortunately.

  • I used to work for a company called Mobile Information Systems, which purchased the part of the company I worked for, called ADAQ. ADAQ sold really shitty, kludgy, and generally poorly written and documented delivery routing software that ran originally on SCO Xenix-286, then on the 386, and eventually SCO UNIX. (This tells you how long ago they started up... Also, it was in Santa Cruz.) By the time I had got there, they had added support for MDTs, or Mobile Data Terminals. In their then-current incarnatio

  • Earlier story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Trailer Trash (60756) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @07:13PM (#11223700) Homepage

    Monitoring Law Enforcement [timesherald.com]

    Choice quote:

    In 2001, three Clinton Township, N.J., police officers were suspended from their jobs, and charged with falsifying records, after a disparity was discovered between the officers' written logs and GPS data.

    I hate to sound like an employer, but I really get the feeling that the only people opposed to this sort of stuff are those who are used to taking a little personal time now and then while working. The article above goes on to deal with FOP complaints. I don't personally understand why people think their job should be unsupervised, particularly those who work for the public.

    • Only a badly-run department would have a problem with this. Dispatch is supposed to know where the cars are. It's easier on everybody if they have an automatically updated map. Otherwise there's constant radio chatter as Dispatch tries to manually keep track of where everybody is.
      • Not to mention that, if you're in a job where your very existence is a problem for ruthless people, (ie. police officers vs. crooks) you'd think you'd want your home base to be able to easily find you if something goes wrong.
  • While I think everyone can agree that while your on the clock you should be accountable for your actions it should also be recognized that we are talking about human beings here. And while it seems to have become an antiquated notion I believe that humans should not be held to machine like standards.

    That's the risk here in tracking the movement of humans in a human world down to the second. One only need look at a company like EA to see the type of abuse that can happen when this type of mentality become

    • By the reading of these posts it makes me wonder if any of them have ever worked in a factory that controls production or not, or maybe they have and actually believe in the mentality. People are not machines. "Oh the quota is 30 widgets a day" and after you get really good at your job, "Oh, now it's 40 widgets per day" then 45, 47, 50 - till you are working like a fiend the whole time through. "But you are on *my* dime!" Uh, huh, tell you what on the 26th lets have Boxing day here at the plant and we will
  • I currently work for an road side assistants company (you know the guys that come out and help if your car brakes down) and we just install GPS in all of our vans to;

    1. Help the drivers find the sight quicker (fast turn around is paramount for us).
    2. Track the contractors that make up 80% of our fleet at certain busy times of the year

    Yes I know that point 2 seems a bit big brotherish but really we had no choice. We are not for profit organization where all the profit we generate goes back into makin

  • by papasui (567265) on Thursday December 30, 2004 @10:03PM (#11224833) Homepage
    I work for one of the major cable companies and all our company vehicles have a gps in them. The techs weren't told when they were first installed. We watched a guy drive in a 4 block circle for 3.5 hrs. Get rid of the dead weight. The other big thing people are missing here is the safety aspect to having a GPS in fleet vehicles. Somebody is missing in poor weather, you can find them quick. We had a guy fall off a ladder and broke his leg and couldn't move. When he was late for his job we found his truck and had a tech go out there to see if he was ok. Who knows how long he would of been there (and it was a very cold day, -10F).
  • Damn good!

    We started using these devices at the office supply company I work at, and I'm glad. We routinely pay our furniture installers huge dribbling gobs of overtime, when all you have to do is drive by the local Timmies or McDonalds to see them goofing off on a 3 hour lunch break. But now, with GPS going in, they won't be able to bugger around like that. It's refreshing.

    On a more productive note, we're also using it to start mapping out our office supply delivery routes, to look for ways we can increa
  • not.

    I find it quite surprising that ups hadn't had gps on all their delivery vehicles before. it's the only sensible thing for them, for tracking the packages, for tracking the people. hell, if you were a courier you'd WANT that device - the schedule is tight enough for you to not have time to sit on your ass anyhow(and if you had that, why not sit at the office anyhow).

    "oo big brother wants to know where you're driving with possibly tens of thousands of merchandise", well, no shit sherlock. they're respo

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