Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Are GPS Enabled Cell Phones An Invasion of Privacy?

For a time in my recent past I sold Cell Phones and GPS enabled software to businesses. I presented to contractors, service providers, taxi companies, and any business with a mobile workforce. What I found was widespread acceptance of the technology by office and managerial staff and a quiet rebellion against the tracking devices among the field staff. Primarily the beef from the field workers had to do with "big brother" and "black helicopter conspiracy" defenses. Like I said though, the rebellion was quiet, small, and manageable. Now however, it appears some employees are getting a bit more bold in expressing their resistance. Twenty employees of Massachusetts' Building Inspection department have been suspended because they refused to carry GPS enabled cell phones. The employees are working with their union claiming the GPS tracking is an invasion of privacy.

I disagree and don't buy the "invasion of privacy" arguments. At the most basic level (this should go without saying) company provided cell phones are rightfully owned assets...of the company. A business has every right to keep track of their assets. Besides that though, what in the world does an honest employee have to complain about? What if the GPS tracking systems were actually in the vehicles that the building inspectors were provided? Would they choose not to drive the vehicle? Would they chose to drive their own vehicles, and thus by default choose to fill the tank with their own gas money? I doubt it.

How about this? Where are all the employee complaints about other means companies use to track the activity (and productivity) of their employees? This is what I get a kick out of. If you are an employee who is supplied a company computer to do your job, are you aware that your every move....yes, your every move throughout the day is traceable?

If a company is actually trying to invade your privacy, which in most cases they are not, they probably wouldn't come right out and tell you that your cell phone has a GPS chip in it. I understand the fears of potential abuse by management of such tracking tools, but the way I see it there is a reverse accountability as well. For example, if a manager accuses an employee of not being somewhere on time and the employee knows he/she was on time, a review of the GPS log will prove it and the manager will be discredited due to incompetence. If the incompetence shows itself too many times, guess what, that manager is no longer a manager.

The resistance to GPS enable cell phones by employees has its roots in ignorance. The technology is new and fascinating and that causes a certain degree of fear. Understandable - fear of abuse, yes, but fear of big brother, no.


Joey said...

And unions wonder why they've been rapidly losing popularity for years.

kristi noser said...

Honestly Pat, I think that it is the age-old problem of men asking for directions. What if they can't find their phone? Then they'll have to ask someone for directions to find it. Not Big Brother at all!

Anonymous said...

thanx for helping me with this information u really helped alot in my IT portfolio..thanx again said...

Cell phones GPS system has surely invaded privacy. Still it has made communication and navigation much easier.
cell phones GPS