Increasing concerns of privacy

1. Do employers have the right to know what their employees do when they are not working? Why or why not?

Personally, in general, I don’t think that employers have the right to do so. Employees don’t get paid by the employers when they are off duty. During this “free time”, they are not in employment relationship, and the employers are not in a superior position and not responsible for employees either, so they don’t have the authority to get to know what the employees are doing outside the workplace. It is unfeasible for the employers to know what their employees are up to 24-7, because the employees are just working for them, not under their custody. It’s understandable that employers monitor what their employees do when they are at work place, it is for organization’s benefit, but if employers do so when employees are not working, I have to say that it is infringing on their privacy. (P.242)

2. Can these cases with professional athletes (Sanderson, 2009) can be applied to (or compared with) other types of employees — such as lawyers, teachers, advertising sales reps, etc. Why or why not?

Well, I don’t think that the cases in Sanderson’s article can be applied to other types of employees. Athletes are a special kind of employees, and they mostly are well-known and draw people’s attention much more than other types of employees. What they do are often eye-catching, and may affect their performance and then their organization’s revenue(P.251). In addition, these athletes are celebrities, and mostly are considered as role models, so they have more social influence no matter they are working or not. But other types of employees, like lawyers, teachers, they don’t have that much fans and normally people wouldn’t “monitor” what they do outside the work place. Besides, what they do when they are not working wouldn’t influence their organizations’ revenue as athletes do.

3. Should people be concerned about the location tracking capabilities discussed by Abe (2009)? Do these technologies have negative aspects?

I don’t think it would be an issue to be worried about. Unless we are suspects or criminals, we need not mind it even if the traces of driving are monitored and stored by the Car-Navi system. (P. 78) It’s true that we expose ourselves by using the information and communication technologies, but we are living in a digital era, it’s like you can’t leave no footprints when walking on the beach,  no one can be invisible and it is impossible to run away from these technologies.Besides, everyone is under the same “surveillance”, not just one or two people are specially targeted. The negative aspect of these technologies I can think of is that we lost some privacy that they use our data for profit purpose. Overall, these technologies brought so much convenience and far outweigh the negative aspects.

4. Is the typical college student’s participation in Facebook an example of Abe’s “peer surveillance”? Why or why not?

In my opinion, Facebook is not a good example of Abe’s “peer surveillance”. Although it has the similar nature with mixi, one of the most popular and biggest social networking services in Japan (P.79), that both of them are social networking websites, it doesn’t has the two main characteristics that are considered as “Peer Surveillance.” First, anyone can sign up on Facebook without an invitation from a member, second, it doesn’t have the “trace record” system that each user can check who visited his/her profile and diary page (P.79). These two features are the place where “peer surveillance” function and make users feel safe and comfortable, which Facebook doesn’t have, so I don’t think it is a good example.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. when I first looked at the question about privacy during leisure time, the answer stood out in my mind immediately: employees definitely have privacy when they are off duty, because the regulation within workplace cannot be extended into personal life, otherwise, it constructs sort of violation of privacy and nobody really possesses this basic right. Also I agree with you that Mixi is not so similar to Facebook but it’s more like Renren, the Chinese SNS. So I guess the track system might be certain “Asian” feature. But I think this track record is not bad all the time, at least it tells me who visits my page and sometimes I can adjust the content accordingly.

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  2. I think the lack of user invitations on Facebook (technically, anyway, since it still happens) is a good distinction to make. Although, before Facebook expanded into what it is now, it was more limited — it spread college by college, into high schools, and then the general public. There was a bit of Peer Surveillance in those initial stages, as smaller schools like community colleges occasionally had to lobby to be approved and brought on board, often with advocates in the form of existing members. (A close friend of mine was involved with getting SFCC onto Facebook, actually.)

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  3. I definitely agree with your distinction between athletes and teachers in that the athletes will generally draw far more attention to themselves by the sheer “virtue” of their celebrity status than a teacher would.

    However, I do think that the consequences from some negative action performed by a teacher would, in some cases, be even more damaging to the reputation of the school than that of the athlete to their organization. The fallout from the fellow students, parents, teacher and alumni would come from a much more personal level, I believe, than that of sports fans.

    Although some sports fans are pretty dedicated, so who knows? However, once again, the potential for such a reveal is much less for the teacher, given the decreased amount of general surveillance they would be under.

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  4. Before I read Sanderson’s article, I was absolutely against organizations’ monitoring its employees’ leisure activity because it’s a violation of privacy. However, Sanderson’s piece reminded me there are so many different kinds of employees: actors, athletes, lawyers…These professions have a higher level of publicity and in many cases people recognized them as role models. It’s reasonable to believe them having higher ethical standards, whether in or out of their working hours. Actors might be a more extreme example than athletes, the moment you choose to be an actor or actress, you are giving up your privacy. It’s unfortunate but it’s true. As for the issue talked about in another article, I agree with you that Facebook is not a good example of “peer surveillance” for the two reasons you listed. Personally, I think “trace record” system is problematic because it doesn’t offer you a choice of hiding your visiting history. Although it’s true that most people wouldn’t care if their “footprints” on the internet are visible to others, I still think it’s a violation of privacy.

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  5. I think you made good arguments for those questions. For the employee privacy one, I definitely believe that off-work life is very personal and should be protected from employers for every reason. However, as number of lay-offs increasing, I’m afraid that people may have to give up such right if they still want to keep their jobs. If employees agree to surrender their pravacy to the company, then probably it is legitimate for employers to keep an eye on employees even if they are not working. But still, it would be a frastrating situation.

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  6. I think the question of celebrities versus normal citizens is a very interesting one. I know of a case of a teacher coming under criticism in Palm Beach County for having a facebook picture where she was at a beach wearing a bikini and drinking a beer. This was on the news even though she what she was doing was perfectly legal as she is over 21 and women sometimes wear bikinis on the beach. Andy Warhol had a theory that we in the future would all have 15 minutes of fame. I don’t think this was what he had in mind but with facebook, blogs, youtube, and twitter maybe we all can become some sort of celebrity?

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  7. I totally agree with you that the employer should not have right to know what their employees are doing when not working. During working, there will be a lunch time or breaks for employees to spend their time freely; it will be unreasonable for employers to track what they are doing. Also, I really do believe the surveillance system will somehow make employees to feel uncomfortable during their work and will eventually influence their working performance. I think it is a feeling of being trusted or not; if employees are not being trusted by the employers, a harmony relationship will not be able to be developed, which will influence the “working atmosphere” in the office.

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  8. I have different opinion about the second question. Although it is true that other types of employees don’t have that many fans, it does not mean that normal people would not monitor them. I think that it is now a world in which everyone may be noticed any second. There are tons of online forums in which people discuss all kinds of things even about “normal people.” People may use their cellphone camera to record things which they think interesting or inappropriate and put on forum to discuss. There are many cases which show that still catching people’s attention and influencing organization’s benefit and decision.

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  9. Your argument of whether the employer has right to know what employees doing during the office time reminds me there are several news related to this issue in Taiwan while the facebook becomes popular. One of the news described that a company announced that they have set limitation of the time for them to use facebook by setting the fire wall. The employer can claim that they don’t monitor the usage of internet of their employees but to set the fire wall to regulate them. Here is an ambiguous line between these two.

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  10. I think there is a great danger in thinking location-aware technologies are safe to use “unless we are suspects or criminals.” The problem is that an innocent person, like you, can become a suspect if she is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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