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I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me!

March 9, 2015 by

The modern worker may well feel like she lives in a Rockwell song.  Like our personal lives, in which our every credit-card swipe, social media interaction, website browse, news-article view, and even our cell-phone’s location, generate data that is packaged, sold and mined; sold to get in our mind.  This is increasingly possible in the workplace.

Managers, efficiency experts, programmers and algorithm-generating mathematicians have created a catalog of efficiency-ensuring merchandise that can track your every move at work: your computer keystrokes, right-turns, website visits, texts, tasks and all the time in between.  Warning:  if this applies to you, do not read this on company time or a workplace computer!

This new form of data-based management is called “Telematics,” and it entails detailed, second-by-second information of your entire work day (what techies call “granular” data).  A panopticon was a prison — not a transforming robot — where the guards were able to see all that transpired at all times.  The panopticon existed mostly in theory, but modern telematics technology now enables the workplace to become a panopticon.

But efficiency and productivity are good, right?

We like efficiency if the increased productivity means higher pay. As a rule, it doesn’t. America’s economy has grown by 60 percent over the past 20 years because of increased productivity due to greater efficiency.  But in that same time workers’ wages have gone down. Who’s benefitting?

There’s gotta be a better way to make a living.

Yes there is — in the Telematics industry!  This newbie industry is expected to be worth $30 billion dollars by 2018.  Imagine, for an industry whose value is based on increasing workers’ efficiency, that kind of growth requires drastic changes in workplace management.

There oughtta be a law!

There is, if you have a union. The effects and impacts of these workplace changes must be bargained.  Without a union, there’s little else to blunt the impact of the Telematic panopticon.  The right to privacy may vary from state to state.  For example the California and New York State Constitutions provide everyone with the right to privacy including at the workplace, but only when one has an “expectation of privacy.”  Most aspects of our worklife do not entail an expectation of privacy.

However, research indicates that the introduction of Telematics leads to cutting corners. The drive for ever-increasing productivity and the soul-crushing accountability to data-crunching leads to labor law violations, such as pressure to work off the clock, avoiding meal period requirements, ignoring safety and health rules, and the like.

Do you work in a workplace with this level of surveillance?

If so, and it raises concerns with you, we’d like to hear from you. Our website provides information about your rights under labor law. Call or email us.


Other articles, analysis and blogs that the reader might find interesting:

  • Workplace Monitoring:

  • Productivity:

  • Panopticon:

  • And (just for fun):

The material on this website is provided by Beeson, Tayer & Bodine for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel before acting on any of the information presented. Some of the articles are updated periodically, and are marked with the date of the last update. Again, readers should consult with their own legal counsel for the most current information and to obtain professional advice before acting on any of the information presented.