Sunday, September 23, 2007

Welcome to 1984: Your Boss as Big Brother

By Mick Meaney
RINF Alternative News

Amazingly, the corporate environment could pose a far greater privacy risk than methods currently being used by the authorities. Corporate surveillance is on the increase as businesses use a range of tactics and technology to monitor your activities, both in the work place and in your private life - and in some cases, even before you start a new job.

“There is no true privacy in this country any more, and that’s more true at the workplace than anywhere else,” says Sharon D. Nelson, who is president of Sensei Enterprises, a consulting firm that specializes in computer forensics.

“If you had an iPod or digital camera charging through the USB port, we could browse all the files that were stored onto the device.”

It has also been revealed that some Welsh companies are going to extraordinary lengths by hiring private detectives to snoop on employees outside the workplace.

Businesses have direct access to private information that authorities need a search warrant to examine.

A private investigator, Wayne Reynolds, claims that around 70 per cent of his work involves spying on company staff.

“Normally we’re called in when someone has been off work for a long time, maybe a few months, and the employer wants to check that they’re not having the wool pulled over their eyes.

“Tips-offs tend to come from people inside the company, and then we launch a full-scale surveillance operation and see if it’s actually happening,” he said.

In another case, private investigators in Stratford-upon-Avon admitted to monitoring a University student recently offered a job with a blue-chip firm.

Jay Brown, from R & G Investigations said: “Some bosses want to ensure that the people they are employing are trustworthy so that – if and when they get promoted – they know that they won’t jeopardise big deals.

“That way they can make sure that none of their staff are weak links and let the rest of the company down. Bosses basically want to know that employees are what they say they are, and that they are not being lied to.”

There is very little employees can do to protect themselves from corporate surveillance as the method is increasing on both sides of the Atlantic and growing in almost every industry. Companies will use hidden CCTV cameras, radios and spend tens of thousands of pounds tracking employees.

Laurence Weekley, from Covert Investigations & Surveillance said: “Sometimes we’re asked to pose as a mystery shopper to make sure the staff are selling things in the way they should be. We’re making sure that customers are being given the right information about certain products.”

Liberty, a civil rights charity said: “Employers need to have respect for their employee’s private lives. Unfortunately there is little to prevent the unscrupulous employer using potentially unlawful methods to snoop.

“Proper resourcing of the Information Commissioners office could allow action to be taken if an employee finds that evidence from detective work is being used against him or her.”

Last month in New York one employee was fired after bosses found he was leaving work early after tracking him for five months with a cell phone they supplied him carried a GPS antenna.