Your every word and move may be tracked — are you finally scared about workplace surveillance?


About 20 years ago, I published my dissertation research on workplace surveillance. Not surprisingly, I found that people being monitored electronically react very negatively when their privacy at work has been invaded, and respond in very negative ways. But back in 2001, no one could really visualize the kind of employee surveillance made possible by technology, and no one really cared. […] Even if you think you have nothing to hide, once your privacy is gone, you don’t get it back. It’s time to care.

Indeed. I stripped all the monitoring crap out of the work-supplied equipment and, if I couldn’t, the device was politely refused. I use the corporate VPN only when communicating with servers or doing the HR paperwork.

I have plenty to hide. Root passwords. Access tokens. Sensitive financial/HR/student/client data. I also have a very keen understanding of what the middle management inside the company does when presented with lots of unstructured data; they give it structure in the shape of a giant hammer. “I see you listen to Spotify on a work computer. That’s a no-no!”

To heck with that. If I’m trusted enough to literally have the keys to every mission-critical system that the company has, then I should be trusted enough to use the tools at my disposal properly. The same modicum of respect should be given to each one of my colleagues unless there is reasonable doubt of malice.

Just because we can monitor what people are doing does not give us the justification to do so.