Now Employers Can Spy on Staff Out of Office
Scotsman | October 17 2004
Bosses can now use “big brother” technology to keep track of their workers throughout the day.
A new service allows companies to find where staff are anywhere in the country by tracing their mobile phone signal.
The information sent back enables managers to pinpoint their location on a map – and potentially catch out those who claim to be elsewhere.
MobileLocate, the firm behind the service, admit bosses can now spy on their workers when they are out of the office but say it has plenty of other valid uses.
Jon Magnusson, managing director of Guildford-based MobileLocate, said: “If a guy is driving, you don’t want to be phoning him to find out where he is because it could be dangerous.
“There is also the time factor. If you have a call-out and you want to find the nearest person to the job, you don’t have to ring around everyone to find out where they are.
“It can also be used if you are not entirely sure the person at the other end of the phone is going to give you an exact location. It gives you a way of verifying the information.”
He added: “If you think about it, any factory in the UK has a system of clocking-in to enable managers to ensure workers are turning up on time. Why shouldn’t you do it when someone who works elsewhere.”
The technology works by tracing the handset’s signal to the nearest mobile phone mast.
MobileLocate provide a exact location which, in built-up areas, can be a 200 to 400 metre radius.
The company say it takes just 10 to 15 seconds for a manager to make a request to find a mobile phone and receive a reply.
Mr Magnusson said an IT firm with service engineers, a joinery business and a courier company were among businesses which had already signed-up for the scheme.
Frances O’Grady, deputy general secretary of the TUC, said: “Employers should have a good enough relationship with their staff to trust them to be where they say they are.
“Tracking technology could help keep staff safe, but it shouldn’t be used to enable big brother bosses to spy on a workers’ every move.
“If employers are keen to keep tabs on their staff they should be open and up-front about any plans to do so.”
The basic package for MobileLocate costs £5 a month for up to five mobile phone numbers. Each request costs 17p.
Workers receive a text message when their employer signs-up for the scheme and reminders after that.
They have to agree for their location to be disclosed at first but are not made aware if future requests are made.
The system does not work if the phone is switched off, although one network can pinpoint the area where the phone was last on.
MobileLocate have already launched a service to help parents to track their children.
The system, called ChildLocate, uses the same technology to pinpoint the child’s mobile phone.