The question I’ve asked is nothing new. For years now average citizens and experts alike have been warning that our civil liberties are slowly being eroded. Over the years almost any public gathering place has had cameras installed. The argument for this is of course security. Although some studies have shown that cameras in fact do not reduce the amount of crime taking place. Others debate this and would tell you that video surveillance deters criminals. No matter which side of fence you may be on – fact remains that privacy seems to be disappearing. Is privacy doomed to become an outdated concept?
Many people will say if you have nothing to hide then why should it bother you if everywhere you go there is camera watching. But shouldn’t citizens have the right to freely travel without being monitored? For years now you haven’t been able to shop without being subjected to video surveillance. Again – argument would be that video helps keep employees safe and this deters theft. However in many cases we have seen this isn’t the case. Unfortunately I can tell you from first hand experience that this doesn’t stop violent crime.
While security is normally the number one reason given for monitoring many public places. Privacy is also being eroded in many other ways. Along with use of video – we are now seeing increased use of GPS ( Global Positioning System ) and RFID ( Radio-frequency identification ) for tracking of people and things. While RFID has a limited range GPS of course can follow you pretty much wherever you go. Google just recently introduced Google Latitude which allows you to track your friends movements. This could also be applied to employees.
Last Sunday the State Journal Register featured a story about how a local Springfield company developed a GPS system that allows them to track their teenagers and employees. Keep in mind I’m not sure why you would pay for a service Google seems to be giving away for free. Of course GPS Core Technologies the products maker would give you many reasons why their solution is the way to go. I think consumers would find that there are many similar products available worldwide. Which is where privacy concerns come into play.
The SJR interview explained how GPS Core Technologies product was being used to keep track of a teenage daughter at school. Usual comment was made about how much more relaxed the parent was being able to keep tabs on their child. While I can understand why a parent would feel this way and want to use this technology. You have to wonder how the parent would feel if their every movement was tracked daily. How can a bond of trust be formed or how will a teenager learn life lessons if they are tracked like product or cattle? Is GPS the new mall leash for kids? Older readers will remember years ago seeing a mother with a kid tethered to a plastic / fur leash walking around local malls.
Even with this constant monitoring you aren’t going to be able to stop all bad things that can occur. While GPS can provide help in emergency situations. I don’t think a person should be tracked day in and day out just in case. I can understand why some companies would put this technology into use. But I think even that can be taken to far. I’ve always found it interesting how shipping companies swear they use this type of monitoring yet never seem to be able to tell you exactly where your package is. Now this might be for safety of delivery driver and to protect from theft. However many customer complaint calls could be easily resolved by just letting consumer know where driver is and giving them an estimated time of arrival.
I’d venture to guess that anyone seeking employment with a shipping or delivery company is aware that GPS will be part of their life as an employee. It is of course their choice to give up some privacy to gain a paycheck. But how far will this go and when does it stop? Are we going to see every employee name badge enabled with a Global Positioning System? Will employee’s habits be tracked and cataloged? This could of course make it easier for managers to micro manage break time and bathroom visits.
Over the years I have often wondered if the supposedly paranoid people screaming 1984 is coming are actually close to being right. Video surveillance has become a way of life in many places. That technology has been put to use in ways many never thought it would be. Now with GPS becoming increasingly more popular and decreasing in cost we are seeing new ways of monitoring people put into place. Where is line that won’t be crossed? I think many feel we have already crossed over that years ago.
I’m sure the comment will be made by some that real privacy is really just a pipe dream. Even before technology advanced to point it is today. People were cataloged, information and data was collected. However nowadays it is much easier to data mine that information into a more usable form. There are some that are so concerned about this that they won’t use a credit card, have their picture taken or interact with businesses in a manner most would consider normal. While this used to seem paranoid. I sometimes wonder. We now have rental car companies that will enforce a fine if the vehicle shows you drove over a certain speed. You have parents buying GPS products to install in cars to keep track of their teenagers. As was mentioned above that has now been taken a step further with parents being able to track their child’s every movement. Schools have forced students to wear RFID enabled badges. Do children not deserve some privacy? Maybe adults don’t think they do. Because of fears or maybe the fact that parents have become so used to being monitored – they feel it is normal to do same to others.