Thursday, March 11, 2010

Big Brother is snooping more than ever!

I suppose this shouldn't come as a surprise, but nevertheless, I was very displeased to read of new-technology cellphones that will allow your boss to snoop on what you're doing. The BBC reports:

Japanese phone giant KDDI Corporation has developed technology that tracks even the tiniest movement of the user and beams the information back to HQ.

It works by analysing the movement of accelerometers, found in many handsets.

Activities such as walking, climbing stairs or even cleaning can be identified, the researchers say.

The company plans to sell the service to clients such as managers, foremen and employment agencies.

"Technically, I think this is an incredibly important innovation," says Philip Sugai, director of the mobile consumer lab at the International University of Japan.

"For example, when applied to the issue of telemedicine, or other situations in which remotely monitoring or accessing an individual's personal movements is vital to that service.

"But there will surely be negative consequences when applied to employee tracking or salesforce optimisation."

Complex behaviour

Until now, mobile phone motion sensors were capable of detecting only repetitive movements such as walking or running.

The KDDI system, is able to detect more complex behaviour by using analytical software - held on a server back at base - to match patterns of common movements.

For example, the KDDI mobile phone strapped to a cleaning worker's waist can tell the difference between actions performed such as scrubbing, sweeping, walking an even emptying a rubbish bin.

The aim of the new system, according to KDDI, is to enable employees to work more efficiently and managers to easily evaluate their employees' performance while away from the office.

"It's part of our research into a total ubiquitous technology society, and activity recognition is an important part of that," said Hiroyuki Yokoyama, head of web data research at KKDI's research labs in Tokyo.

"Because this technology will make central monitoring possible with workers at several different locations, businesses especially are very interested in using such technology to improve the efficiency of their workers.

"We are now at a stage where we can offer managers a chance to analyse more closely the behaviour of staff."

KDDI says it is in talks with a Japanese employment agency that specialises in contract cleaners and security and is interested in deploying the new technology.

'Mothering system'

"Of course there are privacy issues and any employers should really enter into an agreement with employees before using such a system," Mr Yokoyama told BBC News.

"But this is not about curtailing employees' rights to privacy. We'd rather like to think our creation more of a caring, mothering system rather than a Big Brother approach to watching over citizens."

. . .

"This is treating people like machines, like so many cattle to be monitored and watched over," Kazuo Hizumi, a leading human rights lawyer, told BBC News.

"New technology should be used to improve our lives not to spy on us.

"It beggars belief that a prominent company such as KDDI could come up with such a surveillance system. It's totally irresponsible."

There's more at the link.

I agree with Mr. Hizumi: this sort of technology is an intolerable invasion of privacy. Unfortunately, I expect many companies and organizations will jump at it, because it gives them greater control . . . and greater control is precisely the direction in which society as a whole is moving, whether that control be exercised by a government body or a 'beneficent' corporation.

What happened to personal freedom, privacy, and respect for the individual?




robnrun said...

That is just creepy. Neat technology...but creepy. His comment of it being a 'caring, mothering system' highlights the difference in world-view. There really is a growing
belief that we all need looking after as if we were unusually fragile, mentally undeveloped children in a very dangerous world.

Anonymous said...

So leaving the phone in your work bag will become a terminable offense?

The Old Man said...

Don' have a cellphone. Won't get a cellphone. If I wanted to be "reached out and touched" I'd tie a string to my belt. "Why, yes, I'm a Luddite - why do you ask?"
It will only get more intrusive as the tools are perfected.

Crucis said...

There are times when a wireless phone can be useful. All other times, remove the battery until needed.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of 1984. . . . .

B Woodman

Anonymous said...

What B Woodman said.


Noons said...

I do recall working in a mil site between 01-04 and not being allowed to carry a cell phone. Now this?

Anonymous said...

Noons - Those I think are two different issues. Wireless devices commonly have cameras, but the wireless functionality itself is an equal security concern around capital-S Secret (or higher) stuff.