Overview microphones, infrared sensors, accelerometers and Bluetooth

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As a result of the increasing popularity and pervasiveness of the
internet, employees now use it for purposes not related to work while at the
workplace. And this fact pushed employers to the point where surveillance and
employee monitoring was their option to keep track of workers’ online behavior,
but such action generated many concerns and ethical arguments.

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Surveillance can be implemented in many forms including
microphones, infrared sensors, accelerometers and Bluetooth to measure
employees’ movements, face-to-face encounters, speech patterns, vocal
intonations, physical posture and details of conversations. For instance, some
nurses and patient care technicians now have movement sensors attached to their
badges to know where do they go during their shift and how long did it take
them to get back to the office. Another example would be the program
implemented by JP Morgan to monitor employees and their trading activities, the
system designed to control possible unethical or illegal practices by traders.1

According to a survey cited by the American Management Association
back in 2007, 45% of employers are tracking content, keystrokes, and time spent
at the keyboard, 43% store and review computer files, 12% monitor the
blogosphere to see what is being written about the company and 10% monitor even
their employees’ social networking sites. The survey revealed that more than
1/4 of employers have fired workers for misusing e-mail and nearly 1/3 have
fired employees for misusing the Internet at the workplace.2

Bahaudin Mujtaba in the Journal of Applied Management and
Entrepreneurship concluded that “About 80% of employees in industries such
as banking, insurance, telecommunications, travel, and other related service
industries might be subject to some level of telephone or computer-based
and that means we are all -to a certain point- being monitored and under sort
of surveillance while at the workplace.

All of this data, together with the info available from several studies
and researches on the matter have led to path full of controversy. Issues on
whether surveillance at the workplace is ethical have risen. Some are concerned
about their privacy being harassed but others insist that these actions have
been implemented solely to prevent frauds and push the productivity of
employees forward.


Generally speaking, employees believe that a computer-based monitoring
can provide an unbiased objective method of performance evaluation, which
prevents managers from reviewing employees subjectively involving their personal
opinions or feelings. Richard Worsnop in his book `Privacy in the Workplace’
mentioned “Electronic monitoring offers a distinct advantage to the
employee: it is objective”4.

In other words, evaluation resulted from electronic surveillance is more
accurate, and it is implemented for the advantage of employees not against them,
it offers a uniform feedback based on both quality and quantity of workers’ output.

Employers on
the other hand, use electronic surveillance as a method to increase
productivity and ensure an appropriate level of efficiency during working hours.

Several studies have shown that monitoring offers an effective way to decrease
the down time taken by employees and prevent long extended breaks4. Perhaps most importantly that it prevents
Cyberloafing or in other words using working hours to surf the internet for
personal matters or do personal communications. Nielsen Media Research revealed
from a study that every month employees of big companies such IBM and Apple,
log onto the website of the pornographic magazine Penthouse thousands of times5.

Security and
theft prevention are other issues that concern business owners. Surveillance can
help with protecting sensitive information from being leaked and early
mitigation of risky behaviors. Not to forget insider threats that can be
detected before damaging the company. Employers -through monitoring- can also
eliminate their legitimate concerns about email misusing and proprietary
information thefts, which accounts for nearly $2 billions in losses every year,
according to the “International Handbook of White-Collar and Corporate Crime”6.

The atmosphere
in the workplace is one of the things employers are legally liable for. Thus,
the ability to keep track on the records of emails and websites visits is
essential to defend against lawsuits7.

A perfect example -employers would like to avoid- would be the $70 million lawsuit
brought by Morgan Stanley employees, who claimed that the company’s internal
email system had been used to pass racist jokes which created a hostile work
environment8. And
to avoid such cases employers need to electronically monitor their employees, “We
can’t make corporations responsible for stopping unacceptable forms of behavior
and then deny them the tools needed to keep an eye out for that behavior.” Joseph
Garber, a columnist for Forbes magazine, explains8

1 Williams, R. (Sep.

30, 2015). Psychology Today. Retrieved 25 November,
2017, from


2 Amanet,org. (NA). American
Management Association. Retrieved 26 November, 2017, from


3 Williams, R. (Sep.

30, 2015). Psychology Today. Retrieved 25 November,
2017, from

4 Crampton, M. ;
Nishra, S. (NA). Retrieved 24 November,
2017, from


5 Schulman,
M. (Nov 20, 2000). Santa Clara University. Retrieved 26
November, 2017, from


6 Williams, R. (Sep.

30, 2015). Psychology Today. Retrieved 25 November,
2017, from


7 Heathfield,
S. (October 04, 2017). The Balance. Retrieved 25
November, 2017, from

8 Schulman,
M. (Nov 20, 2000). Santa Clara University. Retrieved 26
November, 2017, from



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