Technology is changing the way the world does business. It is bringing big improvements for some business and subtle causes for alarm in many others.
It's not so much big government, though the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, offer employers access to deeply personal information by encouraging health plans that deliver data about things like sleep patterns, fitness activities, and even food diaries through wearable fitness bands.
It's primarily about the tidal wave of information employers have access to, thanks to technology, about the people who work for them.
The average person hasn't yet caught on to the fact that, in the Information Age, they are the product on display. Big Data is all about collecting information on them. From store discount cards to credit cards, and even food delivery services, the intimate details of their lives are collected, collated, and crunched then sold to others.
The workplace operates a little differently. Many people don't even realize data is being gathered about them. Those that do, have little understanding as to how it is used to provide employers with valuable information about them as people, their work habits, and the areas where improvement is needed.
One company, Bizible, uses 10 different software programs to examine data about the business, its employees, and its customers in order to make improvements in the workplaces by increasing productivity and identifying efforts that are or are not delivering the desired results.
While the average person might balk at so many microscopes pointed in their directions, proponents of big data collection and analytics argue that there is no sinister plot involved. The only goal is to improve the business and drive profit by giving employees the tools they need to achieve maximum efficiency.
There are plenty of tools employers are doing to accomplish this. One that many employees throughout the country use every day is the employee badge. In their own right the badges record entrances and exits to the business property as well as certain areas within the property. This means employers can reasonable monitor employee locations throughout the day.
With a few adjustments, employee badges can be made to record conversations and interactions between employees - even, in many states, without the knowledge or consent of employees. For the sake of productivity, this information may be used to monitor interactions with customers.
This can be quite beneficial in sales scenarios and to get to know the individual styles of employees. However, it can also be used to overhear gossip and monitor how much time employees are spending conversing about what.
Google Glass is another tool that is expected to be widely distributed throughout the workplace within a few years. The ability to access and utilize information by blinking your eyes is amazing and may become very convenient - especially in fields where you may not have a hand free at all times to type in the information.
It is also ripe for exploitation as employers will be able to see what you're seeing and read what you're reading. Even when what you are reading are private email communications.
The fitness band question is another big privacy concern employees should really think twice about. These bands gather highly personal information about you that may be shared with your employer - and whomever they are lawfully required to share the information with.
This information includes things like the number of hours you sleep each night. How many steps you take on a given day. What foods you eat. They also record the exercise you do to get or stay in shape and share those as well. With or without your knowledge.
The problem is that employers are making great arguments that these invasions of privacy are necessary for business and that the people who oppose them must have something to hide. For the moment, the law is on their side as they own the equipment being used and case law and precedence aren't evolving as quickly as technology.