Corporate Surveillance: When Employers Collect Data on Their Workers

Labor News


Reprinted from Slashdot on April 20,2019. It is unattributed.

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC:

The emergence of sensor and other technologies that let businesses track, listen to and even watch employees while on company time is raising concern about corporate levels of surveillance… Earlier this year, Amazon received a patent for an ultrasonic bracelet that can detect a warehouse worker’s location and monitor their interaction with inventory bins by using ultrasonic sound pulses. The system can track when and where workers put in or remove items from the bins. An Amazon spokesperson said the company has “no plans to introduce this technology” but that, if implemented in the future, could free up associates’ hands, which now hold scanners to check and fulfill orders.

Walmart last year patented a system that lets the retail giant listen in on workers and customers. The system can track employee “performance metrics” and ensure that employees are performing their jobs efficiently and correctly by listening for sounds such as rustling of bags or beeps of scanners at the checkout line and can determine the number of items placed in bags and number of bags. Sensors can also capture sounds from guests talking while in line and determine whether employees are greeting guests. Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said the company doesn’t have any immediate plans to implement the system. …

A senior staff attorney for the EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation] argues that new consumer privacy laws may not apply to employees. The article also cites a recent survey by Accenture in which 62% of executives “said their companies are using new technologies to collect data on people — from the quality of work to safety and well-being” — even though “fewer than a third said they feel confident they are using the data responsibly.” …

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Slashdot 4/20


Employee Privacy in the US is at Stake as Corporate Surveillance Technology Monitors Workers’ Every Move

Reprinted from CNBC by Ellen Sheng on April 15, 2019.

The emergence of sensor and other technologies that let businesses track, listen to and even watch employees while on company time is raising concern about corporate levels of surveillance. Privacy advocates fear that, if the new technology is not wielded carefully, workers could be at risk of losing any sense of privacy while on the job.

Overall, corporate interest in surveillance seems to be on the rise. A 2018 survey by Gartner found that 22% of organizations worldwide in various industries are using employee-movement data, 17% are monitoring work-computer-usage data, and 16% are using Microsoft Outlook- or calendar-usage data.

Employers say it helps them boost productivity. Employees cringe at this invasion of privacy. …

CNBC 4/15

About Jeffrey Burman 5296 Articles
Jeff Burman served on the Guild’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2019. He is now retired. He can be reached at

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