[Dave Birch] Biometrics expert Jim Wayman, who consults for the Australian, US and British governments, says that mobile phones and credit cards, not biometrics, are the main enemies for workers worried about geoslavery.  What an excellent word: I wonder if he invented it.  Jim goes on to say that "There may be large forces at work in Western society wishing to enslave the workforce. I want to acknowledge that fear, but [a biometric time/attendance system] is not part of this".  He says monitoring computer and phone usage are the "tools by which an employer would seek to enslave the workforce – it would not be done through biometrics".

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In 2004, US employers reportedly spent $US9 billion ($11.7 billion) on monitoring devices for the workplace, while a 2005 survey by the US Management Association and The ePolicy Institute found that 76 per cent of companies monitored workers’ use of websites.  The survey of 526 US companies also showed that 36 per cent of employers tracked computer content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard, while half stored and reviewed employees’ computer files and 55 per cent retained and reviewed email messages. Only 5 per cent used GPS in phones and 8 per cent used GPS in company vehicles, while fingerprint scanning only accounted for 5 per cent, facial recognition 2 per cent and iris scans 0.5 per cent.

Is any of this "geoslavery"?  If I’m at work, if I’m in my employee persona, then is it up to me whether that persona is monitored?  Should there be regulation of location information and its relationship to identity?  Is my employee persona the same as my leisure persona?  Being an optimist, I tend to think that a properly implemented digital identity scheme — perhaps one that uses Stefan Brand’s new U-Prove product or something similar — would make the situation better by allowing people to partition across multiple virtual identities that are unlinkable.  But how do you explain that to people who are worried about geoslavery.

My opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public.
[posted with ecto]

1 comment

  1. Does this come down to function? If you want to track what people are doing, it makes more sense to track the tools they use to do it, rather than who they are, I guess.
    The “extension” of the “work persona” out into other personae is probably more of a threat than the ability to partition off different identities. Blackberry-wielding holidaygoers retain their work persona, no matter where they head off to.

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