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GMB Outraged At Claims That "25% of Employees Are Totally Honest, 25% of Employees Are Totally Dishonest And The Remaining 50% Are Swayed By Opportunity"

Growth of ‘Big Brother’ surveillance technology in the workplace without consent will lead to “lots of little brothers and sisters watching the big brothers”

A new report, published today at the TUC Congress in Brighton shows that there is a growing use of new “big brother” surveillance technology in the workplace. It is cheaper than traditionally labour intensive methods to protect property. The report finds that there has been significant “mission creep” so that it is now increasingly used to monitor the performance of employees. The growth is being driven in part by fact the employers are buying into the myths spread by surveillance equipment suppliers casting doubts on the honesty and diligence of 75% the workforce.

The GMB report looks at the use of ubiquitous and pervasive surveillance systems in the workplace. In particular it looks at Internet Protocol (IP) CCTV systems, tracking and tagging devices e.g. voice pickers, GPS and RFID, the process of “Dataveillance” and remote monitoring software that can monitor keystrokes, emails, chats, websites etc. The report looks at the linking of this technology to the setting of workplace norms in places like call-centers. (see note 1).

The report questions a number of fallacies that are common giving rise to the growth of employee surveillance such as, a) the more an employer spends the more benefit are derived b) It may be unpleasant but it is good for you and c) if you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide.

The report goes on to identify and challenge the ‘myths’ that drive the increased expenditure and prevalence of workplace surveillance. In particular, the report challenges the statement that ‘research shows that 25% of employees are totally honest, 25% of employees are totally dishonest and the remaining 50% are swayed by opportunity.’ (Retail Fraud 2005). Many of the surveys that produce such rounded and memorable statistics are by surveillance equipment manufacturers or their industry bodies.

The GMB Report entitled “Surveillance in the Workplace – an overview of issues of privacy, monitoring and ethics” identifies the positive benefits of much of this new technology but emphasises the need for the question of consent, how to deal with covert surveillance and the workers right to privacy. In particular it identifies that the process of Dataveillance is ‘a highly error prone and privacy invasive activity’. The report also makes clear that Big Brother scrutiny can lead to a backlash with lots of little brothers watching the big brothers. (See note 2).

Paul Kenny, GMB Acting General Secretary said, “The GMB is outraged at the claims of the promoters of “big brother” surveillance technology who insult the honesty and diligence of Britain’s 28 million hard working people. The claim that seven million of these workers are totally dishonest and that another 14 million would rob you blind if they got the chance, is both insulting and utter nonsense.

This surveillance technology currently available has many beneficial uses. However, if this technology is used without consent or in such a way that it invades workers privacy it will undermine the trust that is essential for a productive workplace. It will also give rise to a lot of little brothers watching the big brothers.”

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