In a work context, surveillance and data collection raise issues that go beyond privacy concerns based on individual rights, writes Aiha Nguyen.
Whether it’s the use of closed circuit televisions or keycard access to track movement, expectations of privacy are often left at the door when an employee enters the workplace. New technologies are enabling greater and more pervasive forms of monitoring and surveillance, resulting in new challenges for workers. Public debate both in the United States and in Europe have led to recent calls for greater consumer rights over the collection and use of their data. In a work context, however, surveillance and data collection raise issues that go beyond privacy concerns based on individual rights.
Employers surveil workers for various reasons and can use the same technologies for both beneficial and extractive ends. Monitoring tools may serve purposes such as protecting assets and trade secrets, controlling costs, enforcing protocols, increasing work efficiency, or guarding against legal liability. New technologies that couple monitoring tools with granular data collection now allow employers to use these systems to exert greater control over large workforces, rapidly experiment with workflows, detect deviant behaviour, evaluate performance, and automate tasks.
These technologies can be broadly grouped into three categories: predicting and flagging, remote monitoring and time tracking, and biometric and health data monitoring.