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A Dangerous Direction for Electronic Employee Monitoring

2010 April 30

In the past, employee monitoring was relatively straightforward.  You either had cameras or you didn’t.  You either required employees to check in with their supervisors or you let them punch their own cards and move to their shifts.

These days, things are a little more complicated.  Northern Arizona University is implementing a system by which class attendance is tracked by scanning students as they walk into a classroom.  The article is a little light on detail, but from what I can piece together, student ID cards will be implanted with an RFID chip (similar to the technology used in current US passports) which can be read from a distance.  Thus, when you walk in the door, a sensor detects your student ID and automatically registers your attendance.

How long until this tech enters the workforce?

Remember, if your location can be tracked, that opens up a lot more options for monitoring.  Not only will your employer know when you got in this morning, but also how many times you got up from your chair, how many times you went to grab some coffee, how long to the second you spent on break, when you typically go to the restroom… the list goes on and on.

There’s some research on employee monitoring in industrial/organizational psychology, but it’s mostly focused on e-mail monitoring and the use of cameras.  What happens when employees can quickly and easily record everything you do, down to the total number of minutes you spend leaning back in your chair to relax?  At what precise point do employers have an ethical responsibility to respect the privacy of their employees?

And on the other hand, what an awesomely powerful source of data for research!

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  1. May 4, 2010

    This would be way toooo much… I understand companies installing employee monitoring software (for security and productivity concerns) to monitor the employees activity (active time, idle time, websites visited, chat time, files/folder monitoring, documents, etc), but this kind of measure would be exagerated and will affect employees work

  2. May 4, 2010

    If you don’t think computer monitoring is too far, what makes this worse? Personally, I think both are a little intrusive – just because someone visits a few websites doesn’t mean they’re automatically slackers. Performance is what matters.

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