Is Your Workplace Spying On You? Your company can track just about everything you do--and use it against you.

AuthorRogers-Whitehead, Carrie

Internal documents from Amazon estimate that about 10 percent of its staff are fired annually for lack of productivity. That productivity is not calculated by a boss, but a machine--an automated system that tracks bathroom breaks, time off task, the amount of time it takes to scan and move packages, and more. Amazon has also patented and tested out wearable technology for its employees to monitor them further.

Critics see this monitoring as overreach, advocates see it as capitalism in practice. Whichever your perspective, this aggressive monitoring and tracking system has helped Amazon manage it's 125,000 full-time employees, making it the most valuable public company in the world.

The technology that boosted Amazon's valuation has rapidly improved in recent years. When it was formed in 1994 that kind of technology was just an idea, not a reality. This new reality has potential implications for employees and creates a wide variety of ethical and privacy dilemmas.

Your company can track you

Victor Villa is a privacy advocate and the president at Utah Open Source. He also works in the tech field and has seen both sides of the issue. Years ago, Mr. Villa worked as a systems administrator at a Utah company. Believing in privacy, he wanted to know as few passwords as possible, and if he did know employee passwords, he asked staff to change them immediately. " I am a privacy advocate and a systems administrator at the same time," he said at the time.

Eventually, those dual roles put him in a position that was--in his words--"tenuous at best." The company he was working for saw their productivity decrease, and Mr. Villa was tasked with figuring out what was causing the drop. When Mr. Villa investigated, he was able to hone in on one person who was moving a lot of data back and forth. After looking closer, he could see that this person was watching movies on YouTube. He recorded several days of traffic, took an aggregate of the data, then presented it to the CEO. Soon after, the employee was fired.

This produced mixed emotions for Mr. Villa because, as he says, "I can see both sides of it." It's difficult to say when a company crosses the line into overreach. And overreach can be defined differently. To one person, a company tracking productivity is part of doing business. To another, it's an unethical invasion of privacy.

When asked what the line was for employer overreach Mr. Villa replied, "I guess it depends on the company and what the company...

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