The “Internet of Things” and the Clash With Employee Privacy

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According to Wikipedia, “The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure.” It is the concept that all things and people can be tracked and inventoried all the time. Dion Hinchcliffe, an expert in information technology, business strategy, and next-generation enterprises, says that IoT will make a major change in the workplace very soon much before agile robots and drones will.

Uber  Connectedness

Gartner estimates there will be 26 billion devices that are interconnected by 2020. These will include the devices we have heard of, such as the refrigerator that can order for you as you get low on milk, to many other things people are just now thinking of. This will be a great boon to inventory control on all sorts of items and this will greatly benefit companies. Imagine employee theft being eliminated because every item someone could steal will be able to tell a computer where it is!

This uber connectedness could, and will most likely be, applied to employees as well. Badges, uniforms, computers, mobile devices, chairs, desks, cubicles, carpet, and more will all be connected. With an available dashboard a manager will be able to tell at any time where an employee is and what they are doing. For the manager that likes to measure productivity based on “attendance” this will be considered a fantastic technology. Of course this could be a clash with the concept of ROWE (results only work environment).

Quantified Enterprise

Hinchcliffe says,

the quanitified enterprise describes a mindset where readily available tools exist that enable analytics and business intelligence around the enterprise Interenet of Things at a much more fine-grained and high-scale manner….The quanitified enterprise is made up of applications and instrumentation that allows workers to literally take the full measure of what’s taking place now and use it to manage, control, and optimize the business.

We have seen the movement towards big data in many organizations.

In addition to business applications many individuals are moving toward a more quantified existence. All of our devices allow us to be measured and tracked both at work and in personal lives. As a result some people have suggested that the Internet of Things and this move toward quantification may have a sinister side.

Employee Privacy

In most workplaces today employers make it clear that there are limitations on an employee’s right to privacy. Employers can inspect emails, computer usage, inspect desks and even personal items if so stated in an employee handbook. Most employees accept that. The one area that they expect a right of privacy is when they are going to the restroom or the locker room. However, in the IoT era, where everything may be tagged, will employees accept being tracked every minute of the working day and maybe beyond? Will they believe that there are safeguards on that tracking that shuts off that device when they pass through a restroom door?

I wonder if, as we become more accepting of technology and the fact that many people already broadcast their whereabouts with applications such as FourSquare, that IoT tracking will become a non-issue. Provide me with some feedback. How would you accept your boss knowing exactly where you are and what you are doing every minute of the day? Do you think abuse of such technology is inevitable? Or do the good things of IoT outweigh the bad things?

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