Monday, May 03, 2010

Smartphone App Enhances Employers’ Ability to Track Employees

This is a guest post by by Greg Bartlett. Contact me if you'd like to submit an article. 

Smartphone App Enhances Employers’ Ability to Track Employees

If you're employed by a hospital or practice that's issued you a smartphone, chances are your HR department is concerned about what you do and do not view with its internet browsing capabilities. Even the most permissive of firms are at least a little curious if company property is being used as a distraction, so many are resorting to tracking software like Mobile Spy 4.0.

Developed by Retina-X Studios, Mobile Spy is an app for Blackberry-other versions coming eventually-that allows employers to monitor nearly every conceivable action on their employee's company-issued smartphones. Previous versions of the app logged keystrokes, internet browsing histories, and of course all call records.

The 4.0 iteration includes a variety of additional-and more intrusive-features. Employers may now access full contact lists, event calendars, and memos stored on the smartphone's memory. They can also preview any email sent to or from the device, as well as any picture taken with the onboard camera.

Developers and users of this kind of software acknowledge that this sort of thing is certainly intrusive, but defend its use as essential to many firms. Employers claim significantly reduced productively when their employees are allowed to freely browse non-work-related websites, and smartphones' image-capturing capabilities can certainly create intellectual property protection concerns. Employees could use their smartphones to waste time or snap photos of sensitive information, if they were so inclined.

There are privacy concerns, however. Few people enjoy having their firm looking over their shoulder every second, and many would simply prefer an atmosphere of trust that lets their work stand for itself. Also, most companies would consider it extreme to completely bar the personal use of every bit of technology it issues its employees. Calling your great aunt in Germany every weekend is one thing, but phoning home to your husband to let him know you'll be late from work is another. Companies must question whether giving their HR department access to potentially sensitive personal information is a good idea.

The law, however, is certainly on the side of employers. They have the right to track any and all use of company property in whatever manner they deem fit-so long as doing so doesn't intrude into employees' time off the clock. But what a good HR department should do is notify its employees of the tracking software and its implications.

It's all a question of trust. GPS tracking and smart camera technologies have been great for smartphones and their users. Google Latitude and other user-driven data aggregators can be a great social tool, but like any new technology, its use in corporate settings will be governed by a complex legal doctrine that ensures maximum efficiency and profitability. What that is is anyone's guess.

This guest post is written by Greg Bartlett who runs He specializes in writing about health and technology, including GPS and insurance, and has earned two master’s degrees. 

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