Normally I'm amongst the first to applaud groundbreaking electronics technology that not only enriches peoples lives, but also swells the coffers of the electronics industry—particularly as revenue successes ultimately provide funds for future engineering research.
I was a little perturbed, though, when I read a recent announcement from Trisent Communications about its development of a mobile phone technology. With it, employers can elect to constantly and accurately track their employees whereabouts at any time or place during the working day (define working day?). This is achieved via continuous tracking in real-time by using standard unmodified phones. There's no need to install additional equipment within the cellular networks.
Interesting stuff, but it does seem very Orwellian, very 1984, very "big brother is watching you." I will be extremely surprised if there aren't plenty of heated privacy-rights discussions prompted by this technology.
But let's not forget the important words used by Trisent Communications: "employers can elect to track employees; they don't have to." Yeah right. Is a company really going to implement a system and then not use it? Plus, it looks like the temptation to use employee monitoring technology is already winning many supporters, given the figures provided in Trisent's press release. It says that in the U.K., over 500,000 phones are being located on a regular basis.
It also says that its mobile-phone tracking system is always aware of the phone location. When the person moves, the system updates the location automatically and keeps a record of where they were, at any time. This means that if you want to know where someone was at 9.45 am last Friday, you can easily find out.
The company states the new services are primarily being targeted at business users who need to locate their employees in real time. There are benefits for employers who need to keep track of their employees' whereabouts for operational or security purposes. They may also wish to view their previous locations for a wide variety of other reasons. Be interesting to hear what those are.
But to be fair, I maybe missing the point here. The security applications could have some real potential, particularly when it comes to keeping young mobile-phone users safe.
However, I still think the invasion of adult peoples' privacy may generate lots of ill feeling amongst existing and future employees. Let's face it, would you want to work for a company that constantly tracked you via you mobile phone?