>Social Spy At Work – Surveillance in (and by) the workplace


This report is worth a read it highlights how organisations may or apparently do use publicly available information on the internet to make decisions about current staff and potentially new members of staff. Media searches have been around for sometime (eg: hold the front page , or Linkedin or just a name search using good old google) but the moral of this story is don’t put anything on the web which you do not want to bite you on the bum in 1 month, 1 year or 10 years……..once its there its always there and its public!

Click the image to
read the full report
The new report produced by the GMB Trade Union shows how employers can use sophisticated software to watch only what employees are doing in the workplace (Workplace Watch), but what they are saying on online social networks and other communication channels (Social Spy).

A previous version of the report in 2005 identified technologies that pervasively and persistently monitor workplace activity, ranging from wearable computers in retail distribution centres (monitoring the movement and activity rates of employees, with the information system managing their movements) to the monitoring of computer activity such as typing speeds and spelling errors in a process of increasing productivity by staff

The updated report identifies the privacy issues that arise through the extensive development of social networking, online communication, the increasing ‘public’ visibility of that communication activity and the implications of their use in the workplace.

Noting how the surveillance industry has expanded since the events of 9/11, and offers ever more sophisticated means of electronic monitoring, there is also a shift in the balance of surveillance power where employees can now undertake forms of counter-surveillance of employers, political representatives, and mobilise action through online resources.

This presents significant challenges to the maintenance of privacy of individuals and employees, and potential harm to organisations and employers – the ‘privacy paradox’, and the extent to which surveillance is ‘proportional’ to the real problems, and is undertaken with the consent of employees.

Report produced
by the GMB
The report notes the ‘privacy paradox’ in the context of positive benefits of monitoring and surveillance (for example for key worker safety, for health monitoring, and for public safety (for example the need for Agencies to share information about risks to children), but then discussed the ways in which ‘function-creep’ can occur when technologies are taken into areas of pervasive monitoring, and the ways in which the surveillance industry can exploit employers’ fears of security risks, employee fraud, and reputational damage.
The integration of surveillance is made much easier by the sophistication of Internet networking and mobile phones. In 2005 phones had cameras and some mobile Internet, but now increasingly are complex integrated technologies with cameras, keyboards, high-quality screens, high-speed mobile Internet access, GPS location facilities, digital compasses and other devices that allow precise location to be tracked within buildings. High-speed Broadband networks allow the real-time monitoring of activities such as the BRULINES service where pervasive monitoring of drink dispensing and sales records is implemented in ove
r 22,000 pubs (one-third of all pubs in the UK).

However, it is the electronic trace that we all leave online that is receiving the attention of the ‘Social Spy’. For example, the Social Intelligence Corporation in the USA provides software that scans the publicly available information on the Internet to check where applicants for jobs have a negative online presence, arguing that “5-20% of applicants have something negative out there about them.” Their “Social Intelligence? Monitoring” will also check existing employees for critical comments made about colleagues and managers, unacceptable material being accessed or passed on, looking at Websites that are not approved, or undertaking what is called “cyber slacking” when they use workplace resources for personal activities.

So, as employees engage more and more with email, social networking, photo sharing, and blogging, they leave behind a detailed audit trail of what they do. And, even if people delete comments or material that they regret it may be that the material has been copied and passed on by others, or a previous version of a Web site has been captured by the Internet Archive (in what is called the WayBack Machine and will remain there without any easy way to remove their past material.
The report therefore examines the risks in the rise of pervasive surveillance in the workplace, and also the risks associated with the uncritical use of the communication channels on the Internet. Damage can be caused to all parties in the workplace, and GMB is clear in the need to negotiate ‘digital etiquette’, ethical practices and standards of behaviour by all parties.

GMB’s do’s and don’ts of social networking


· Think carefully before posting anything online.
· Have a clear understanding of what comments about your work will be tolerated by your employer.
· Take time to understand the privacy policies and controls for any social networking or blogging site that you use.
· Use access controls to limit who can see your information – and don’t forget who you have granted most detailed access!
· Use a separate email address to register with networking and blogging sites – preferably one that does not include your name.
· Check your privacy settings often. Think about who you allow as friends, and remember who they are.
· Consider that some people may not be who they say they are.
· Report users who violate the terms of use for the sites you are on.
· Be aware of your employer’s policy on the use of electronic communications. You might not be allowed to use sites like Facebook in work hours.
· Clearly state in your bio that all views are your own personal opinions and not those of your employer.
· Publish your email address, telephone number or home address.
· Choose an email address that reveals private information about you.
· Make public other identifying information, such as your date of birth.

This process must also involve constructive and meaningful dialogue with employers so that employees understand that limits that exist regarding surveillance, and can then work together with employers to maximise the business benefits for all stakeholders.

For more information about me please checkout my Linkedin profile at http://uk.linkedin.com/in/padrury/

Tagged with: ,

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.