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Challenges Faced by ICT Professionals: Uberveillance
Michael and Michael (2007) state that uberveillance uses cutting-edge surveillance technology to identify, locate, and track individuals. It is omnipresent and based on pervasive electronic devices such as computer chips that are implanted into the body. The idea of uberveillance brings up various concerns about privacy, ethical, and human rights. This is because these devices monitor individuals and compel them to provide detailed information about themselves, their likes, dislikes, habits, behaviours, and preferences (Chirgwin, 2015). This could lead to abusive or dangerous situations if such information falls into the wrong hands.
Privacy and uberveillance
Several issues come up concerning uberveillance at the workplace. Michael (2012) states that electronic and monitoring surveillance practices have significantly increased in the last years to encompass all aspects of life, including the workplace. Emails, social networking, and LinkedIn are some examples of communication flows in and out of a workplace. This e-communication comes with some potential risks to the employers and employees because of the need for extended permissible authority for surveillance, the growth of relational databases, and a business that is committed to filling them (Michael & Michael, 2014). ICT professionals use these sites and media forms to communicate with clients and colleagues. If they are under uberveillance, their activities and actions could be tracked and exploited to get information from them that could potentially harm them and their company.
As Michael and Michael (2009, p.4) state, these surveillance technologies are used mainly on the common people and not on rulers, leaders, or people of influence. It is only used on the leaders in cases of blackmail or industrial espionage. At the place of work, it is mostly the employees who are subjected to uberveillance; by their superiors. Everyone needs some privacy (Michael & Michael, 2009 p.4), but uberveillance makes this privacy obsolete. The ICT employees need to have a modicum of privacy even if they are on work premises and using work equipment and resources. However, working for someone or a corporation means that the employees should also accept that their privacy will be invaded. The use of uberveillance at work would invade employee privacy completely and subject them to unnecessary scrutiny on their private and public lives. Uberveillance would enable employees to follow an employee’s life even when they are not at work. Information gathered could be used negatively or positively against them. Kurkovsky et al. (2011) shows how employers could use an RFID tracker to keep track of employee location. This can be beneficial if the tracker helps to improve job productivity. However, it should not be used to monitor the employees in order to micro-manage their time and activities, as this could discourage them.
Impact of uberveillance on work productivity and efficiency
Uberveillance devices such as microchips can enable the ICT professionals to access work-related technologies like printers or scanners, log onto their computers, and open secure doors (Mazanov, 2017). It can also be used as a cure or remedy for forgetfulness even in the workplace when an employee forgets where they placed a project or how they performed a certain task. A microchip would enable employees to swipe their security and ID cards into the work building, and to pay for food and other services in the work space (Astor, 2017). Michael and Michael (2014) however see the need for more research on the use on uberveillance at the workplace. Even though micro chipping aids in automating payroll systems and the effective use of online commerce practices, it could be costly and unhealthy to embed microchips in employees and other individuals (Mazanov, 2017).
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Widespread use of uberveillance and its associated devices could change the way employees work, perform tasks, and even enter the profession (Joint Workshop, 2012). When employees are aware that they are being monitored, they could either become more motivated to work, or feel stifled in their environment. This can limit their imaginations and place limits on their natural impulse to act spontaneously and to freely use their imaginations for company and personal benefit. They also become constrained in the use of words and expressions. Their creativity and relaxation levels reduce, causing them to work below optimum and with a lot of anxiety that could bring negative results for the company. However, uberveillance devices, if used properly, could help to monitor their levels of stress and the onset of work-related illnesses and ultimately facilitate earlier return to work after an illness (Joint Workshop, 2012 p.5).
Uberveillance and health issues
Many ICT professionals are nervous about having a device implanted into their bodies because they still do not know much about them and their effects and capabilities. According to experts, micros chips and other devices do not have tracking abilities (Sheppard, 2017). However, they are aware that these devices will be a major part of everyday life in the coming years and will be fully integrated into their personal and professional realms. Health issues and injury lawsuits could arise if the implant migrates to another part of the body or if it becomes infected (Astor, 2017). This could lead to absenteeism at work as employees require treatment or hospitalization for corrective measures to be performed.
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (2014) states that it is unaware of any side effects from RFID implantation in human beings, although there are concerns about their effect on medical devices. Michael and Michael (2014 p.281) state that research has shown how microchips have caused cancer in animals, and further recommendations and research is needed for use in human beings. If employees get such implants and they end up with adverse effects, then their productivity and ability to work becomes compromised.
Uberveillance and security
Implants and chips are usually encrypted, and are thus susceptible to hacking or reading by third-party scanners. Individuals could secretly access information from these devices and clone the signal to gain access in order to impersonate the chipped individual (Byles, 2006). This could affect ICT employees as they often deal with sensitive company information that could be hacked by competitors or blackmailers for company espionage. It is thus not secure to use uberveillance on employees who deal with sensitive business data as their lives could be put at risk. Byles (2006) also states that such a breach of security could result in problems for building or computer access by locking individuals out of their work place, secure rooms, or their designated work areas.
Uberveillance will lend individuals to even greater scrutiny and surveillance, resulting in a total loss of freedom. The electronic and technological world are fragile, therefore uberveillance could increase the insecurity of data and information used on such devices at the workplace. Michael (2017) states that uberveillance is impelled by the need for control from superiors in order to scrutinize their juniors’ lives and thoughts. This could apply in the workplace as employer’s desire to control all the activities of their employees, regardless of whether this could harm the employees. Employers might believe that uberveillance increases security at work (Michael, 2017), but this could be the opposite if the technology breaks down or is used for criminal activities.
Legal and ethical implications of uberveillance
Employees should be made aware of and freely consent to uberveillance, and if they so wish, they can withdraw this consent (Sheppard, 2017). Pressure to comply can make employees resign, claiming constructive dismissal. Monitoring practices should be under the laws of data protection and human rights policies, with employers conducting careful impact assessments prior to introduction of uberveillance. The ICT employees need to be informed why it is valid and justified to monitor their movements, logs, and activities at the workplace.
In addition, there could be religious or personal beliefs that prevent employees from being implanted with uberveillance devices (Sheppard, 2017). If these are violated, the business could face a lawsuit. To mitigate this, data protection regulations should be prepared and signed by employees prior to implantation to ensure their decision is informed and consent is free (Michael & Michael, 2010 p.10). Although employee monitoring systems are commonplace in businesses, uberveillance can be seen as crossing a moral, political, and legal threshold.
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Employers and others who require their staff to use uberveillance devices must differentiate between active and inactive implants, reversible and non-reversible ones, and offline and online ones (Michael & Michael, 2010 p.10). They should ensure that employee dignity is maintained so that the employees are not manipulated or controlled remotely as a source of information. Uberveillance should be permitted if there is justification and necessity for its use at the workplace and there are no better methods of acquiring information without invasion of privacy. Such surveillance methods must thus be specified in legislation, and approved and monitored legally (Michael & Michael, 2010 p. 11)
Research shows that there is various security, privacy, ethical, health, and legal implications for the use of uberveillance at the workplace. Even though it can make the work of employees easier in some ways, its use can also be detrimental in their wellbeing and productivity. If not properly inserted, health problems could arise and make the employees unable to work. The uberveillance devices must be kept secure to prevent system hacking and even espionage at the workplace, because ICT professionals tend to deal with sensitive and classified information. Care must however be taken to ensure that employees being surveilled have given consent and are aware of the implications of the practice.
Uberveillance is still developing, it is an inevitable part of the future that will be quickly embraced. It will become more incorporated into the workplace and help to improve productivity and employee retention if used appropriately. Technology and uberveillance however must be used ethically and humanely because they ultimately convey the intentions of the creators, who might have created them for their personal gain.
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