After PRISM leak, should businesses track employees?

An expert cites benefits and ways to ease privacy concerns. Photo: Communities Digital News

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2013 — Edward Snowden, the 30-year-old man who leaked NSA’s PRISM operation, launched an intense, worldwide discussion about U.S. government surveillance tactics. As of late, the discussion has turned in to a real-life search for Waldo or Carmen Sandiego as Snowden attempts to elude extradition, Wikileaks-style. As repercussions continue, the incident is causing businesses to re-think and address the serious issue of people-tracking worldwide.

Nearly 10 years after real-time package- and people-tracking went viral with the advent of GPS-enabled cell phones, small businesses face two big concerns.


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“One is expense. Small businesses, especially those still recovering from the worst recession in modern history, can’t always afford to provide their employees with GPS-equipped smart phones,” notes location-based services specialist George Karonis, founder and CEO of LiveViewGPS, Inc., provider of Mobile Phone Locate tracking service, (www.mobilephonelocate.com).

“The second issue is privacy. People generally don’t want their employer to be a ‘big brother’ boss who can track their every move. It’s not because they’re doing something they shouldn’t, but because it invades their space, and the information could be misinterpreted or misused.”

But employee tracking has plenty of obvious benefits to small business owners. Tracking can:

• Provide baseline information. It gives businesses solid data to analyze for initiatives such as improving efficiency. Businesses with lots of workers in the field making deliveries or service calls can optimize routes and schedules.


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• Improve customer service and satisfaction. Tracking helps a business tell people waiting somewhere for a delivery or service exactly where their package or service-person is and how long the wait will be.

• Improve response times. On-site coordinators can re-route workers in the field to respond to unscheduled calls in the most efficient way possible.

• Reduce costs. The greater efficiency provided by tracking helps lower costs by reducing both downtime and overtime.

So how can businesses circumvent affordability and employee privacy concerns?

One way is to accomplish both is to use a service that doesn’t involve extra equipment, including software, or a contract, Karonis says.

“If you’re not loading apps or software onto someone’s personal phone, it’s less intrusive for the employee and he or she will be more willing to allow use of their own phone. There’s also no added drain on the battery, because there’s no app constantly running in the background, and no hitch-hiking on their data plan or incurring a data charge,” he says.

“If you make it non-intrusive employees won’t tend to feel that you’re invading their privacy.”

Using a service that charges per location, with no requirement for a time-specific contract, is also more cost-efficient for the business, Karonis says.

 “For the small business that’s merely seeking to improve efficiency and customer service, constant tracking isn’t necessary. That’s more appropriate in a situation where employers have large number of people constantly in the field, for instance, UPS. Or, employers who feel the need to monitor unproductive employees,” he says.

There’s a growing backlash as the public is subjected to more and more stalking – from cameras mounted at traffic lights to social networking sites recording shopping habits and topics of conversation, Karonis notes.

“We’ve reached a crossroads where we need to find a balance between surveillance that provides legitimate business advantages and surveillance that invades people’s privacy,” he says.

“It really is possible to strike that balance and, in a small business that thrives on trust, mutual respect and fully invested employees, it’s essential.”

Jeff Barrett is a Forbes Top 50 Influencer In Social Media, Co-Founder of Status Creative, 2012 PRNewswire Award Winner for “Best Use of Video In Social Media” and record holder for Most Strikeouts in Tee-Ball.  



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Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is an experienced columnist and business leader. He has been named Business Insider’s #1 Ad Executive on Twitter, a Forbes Top 50 Influencer In Social Media and has previously written for Mashable and The Detroit Free Press. 

 

 

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