Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Privacy Businesses

Workplace Surveillance Becoming More Common 195

An anonymous reader writes For better or worse, surveillance technology is becoming more common in the workplace. These tools are being used to measure and monitor employees, with the promise changing how people work. "Through these new means, companies have found, for example, that workers are more productive if they have more social interaction. So a bank's call center introduced a shared 15-minute coffee break, and a pharmaceutical company replaced coffee makers used by a few marketing workers with a larger cafe area. The result? Increased sales and less turnover." Of course, this kind of monitoring raises privacy concerns. "Whether this kind of monitoring is effective or not, it's a concern," said Lee Tien, a senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Workplace Surveillance Becoming More Common

Comments Filter:
  • by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:45PM (#47295101)
    Surveillance is only the tool. How it is used (abused) is the key. For example, a camera in the break-room kills good will. Pointedly saying we will be monitoring, but not the break-room increases good will.
  • social interaction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:52PM (#47295141)

    Wait what, social interaction makes people more productive? You mean they don't feel like their existence is validated by the calm fuzzy warmth of fabric covered cubicle walls? They need to talk to each other too? But what if they criticize management? Managers' fragile egos can't handle even the possibility of criticism of any kind! You there! Stop talking! Eyes back on the computer screen!

  • by swamp_ig ( 466489 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @07:58PM (#47295163)

    Seriously - they needed surveillance to figure out that workers were happier and more productive when they had some shared sense of purpose?

    What next - needing surveillance to figure out people are bothered by random loud buzzing noises?

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:15PM (#47295243) Journal
    This has a long history with the classic "Time and motion study" []
    Repackaged, sold, rented for the digital age. Expect logs, cameras, spyware, questions, tracking software. Been blacklisted is a risk if you dare to make a fuss, comment or seek outside clarification of your existing rights.
    As a boss you are spending a lot to track, log and reshape your staff to do a few tasks really quickly and at a low cost with few breaks every working day.
    History is full of stories of perfect production line or office been set up after been sold/rented a system to watch staff.
    You end up with a multination with a dormitory, low wages and no ability to change. Lots of hands putting ever more smaller and complex products together fast.
    The competition invests in robots and goes smaller, faster, cheaper and with better quality control. The brand was fixated on the time system, tracking their distrusted workers and lost all focus on needed innovation.
    The winner is the person selling/renting the surveillance and staff review product, moving onto another boss.
  • by Travis Mansbridge ( 830557 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:22PM (#47295261)
    Poor laws don't make all laws poor.
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:24PM (#47295269)

    unions are needed before the bathroom break timer system goes into place.

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @08:46PM (#47295349)

    shorten that to:

    unions are needed.


    sweatshops (for computer guys) are on the return. if you and I are not careful, we will be so close to the old ways, we will have to fight that old war back again. we already lost our weekends and we lost time and a half for overtime (my grandfather used to get 1.5x, 2x and 3x time for time past normal work hours). we don't get that - we're now the evil thing called 'exempt' and we get cheated out of our own time and extra pay.

    add to insult the fact that all corp firewalls have a MitM proxy in them, corp windows boxes are handed out preloaded with certs installed (for the mitm firewall entry) and at some places (like where I work) its been known that spyware and remote mic/camera stuff can be activated and logged/reviewed by your boss. how do I know: because in .de they have to disclose this and my work has offices in .de ; in the US they don't disclose what they do when spying but over in .de they do).

    if we dont fight back, things will continue to get worse.

    oh right, we don't have unions so we are all afraid of speaking out, for sake of our jobs.

    well, so we have 2 problems to solve, then.

  • by UrsaMajor987 ( 3604759 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @09:22PM (#47295459)
    Most programmers and people in IT in general are classified as exempt. Given the level of monitoring and control; the idea that IT people are exempt is a joke. Shift the classification to non-exempt and start paying overtime.
  • by jeIlomizer ( 3670951 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @09:25PM (#47295469)

    Indeed, recording people with legal authority who have the ability to easily ruin people's lives is a whole different case. Especially when the recording is happening in public.

  • by TarPitt ( 217247 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @09:49PM (#47295555)

    Because private detective agencies hired by private employers to snoop on workers and ruin them is OK AND is FREEDOM.

    Laws to prevent this are bad because GOVERNMENT EVIL.

    For a real example of private company goon squads, try the Ford "Service Department" []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2014 @11:01PM (#47295781)

    Did you reach out to the general counsel after your termination?

  • by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Sunday June 22, 2014 @11:44PM (#47295913)
    1. It is fun to spy on others. It is not fun to be spied upon.
    2. You exert power and authority by spying on others, and by forcing them to accept surveillance.
    3. People, if they know someone's spying on them, will find ways to thwart or subvert surveillance. Spying then becomes an arms race between those who want to observe and those who resist being observed.
  • Re:More common? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShaunC ( 203807 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @01:16AM (#47296129)

    At my last workplace, we officially got two 15-minute breaks per day, one before lunch and one after lunch. Now this was at a non-regulated, non-union, private company and we were salaried employees who routinely showed up early, occasionally stayed late, and many of us were still checking (and responding to) emails and tickets, fixing things, etc. from home at all hours of the day and night. This was not a scenario where we had time cards or where everyone worked exactly 480 minutes per day or where being away from your desk for a few minutes had any negative impact on productivity.

    Over the course of some years, a group of smokers had aligned our patterns so that we'd break for a quick smoke at 9:30, 11, 2:30, and 4. We kept it legit, it doesn't take 7 1/2 minutes to walk outside, smoke a cigarette while chatting, and walk back in. No one was taking four 15-minute breaks. Eventually HR sent out a warning to everyone who was "abusing" the break policy by taking two quick breaks during every 4 work hours instead of one 15-minute break.

    So we shifted to taking our allotted break once before lunch and once after. And we used every last second of those 15 minutes, every time. We'd wave at the cameras on the way into and out of the building and one of us would always keep track of our remaining time on their watch or their phone. Guess which folks stopped showing up at work 20 minutes early, staying late to finish things up, leaving our email clients open and monitoring work emails 24/7, and handling shit outside of business hours? Guess which folks stopped bringing their lunches and eating in 10 minutes at their desk, and started taking their full lunch hours offsite every day?

    Somehow there are still plenty of employers who just don't understand that if you treat your employees like a bunch of kindergarteners, you're not going to get things like "loyalty" and "amazing work ethic" and "110%" in return. No, you're going to drive away good talent, and with that talent will go many years of your institutional memory. And you deserve to lose it.

    By the time I was out of there, we had a running joke that they were probably keeping records of anyone who took more than 2 minutes to take a shit. I suppose it's a function of HR feeling a need to justify their own existence from time to time. That company is currently advertising for an HR director, a little bit of schadenfreude to end my night on a pleasant thought...

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith