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School custodian refuses to download app that monitors location, got her fired (cbc.ca)
458 points by docdeek 34 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 291 comments



I think this is not something bad in itself - such practice is well known, for instance truck drivers are being tracked routinely and nobody makes a big fuss about that. But this is unacceptable:

"telling employees to download an app on their personal phones that would check their location and ensure they were working their scheduled hours."

Why someone is obliged to install something on a private phone? What if someone does not have smartphone, what if that phone will stop working, who is to blame, who is responsible for fixing it, how quickly - will an employee sign SLA for fixing the phone?

Employer should provide a phone for an employee and then whatever employer wants can be installed there. If something does not work, well, it is up to employer to provide support.


> Employer should provide a phone for an employee and then whatever employer wants can be installed there. If something does not work, well, it is up to employer to provide support.

Buy a scanner. Put it in somewhere the building which is accessible by employees (eg custodial office). Give each employee a unique, scannable card with which to identify themselves. Instruct employees to clock in and out by scanning the card.

Mission accomplished. No phones or location tracking necessary.

What this person's employer did should be illegal, and that extends to other industries as well. A shipping company can track their trailer or their shipments, but they shouldn't be allowed to track the truck driver himself.


This is something I've seen at places like Whole Foods. In the bathroom they have a digital card scanner. One day I saw an employee scan their ID, they said that they have to check on certain things every hour and scanning a badge in the bathroom tells their minders that "Hey, the bathroom was checked in on by an employee and thus should be in of good condition".

I think something like that is fine and reasonable if your job is to move about a building.


Watchclocks have been used for over a century. Guards or watchmen on patrol had to be at a specific spot at a certain time to prove they were not asleep. They had to prove via the clock that they were at that location.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchclock


LOL. Just noticed we posted the same link ;-)


I wrote it at noon and never clicked reply until I was off work. I see another link too even earlier.


To solve the problem, Burger-G contracted with a software consultant and commissioned a piece of software. The goal of the software was to replace the managers and tell the employees what to do in a more controllable way. Manna version 1.0 was born.

https://marshallbrain.com/manna1


I honestly hate that story with a passion. Not because it's bad, it's actually very compelling. But it presents two very dystopian futures which I perceive to be antithetical to human and individual dignity, one which is as miserable as it is likely, and one that I find far more disturbing and undesirable which it presents as a Utopia, which I hope never has a chance to come to pass.


I'm curious: would I be wrong to assume you're not of fan of the Culture, either? In case you haven't the series ignore me :)


I'm not familiar with the series. But after skimming a few articles on it, I don't think my distaste for Manna transfers.

The Culture series seems to create a platonic ideal of a post-scarcity pseudo-anarchistic liberal society under technocratic governance, and explores its interactions with the outside world.

Though the details of that society's implementation may be somewhat distasteful to me personally, it seems the author is more than willing to critique the society and its behavior from as good a faith a position as he took to create it.

Manna doesn't do the same.

SPOILERS FOR MANNA AHEAD

Brain constructed the Australia Project as a desirable alternative to the corporatist dystopia of the United States - where the majority of the population has been rendered technologically obsolete, and are held in cheap public housing where they wait to die. Despite what he may claim, he writes the Australia Project less as an exploration, and more as a sales brochure.

Brain breathlessly and uncritically describes the Australia Project as heaven on earth, or a 'luxury cruise'. In the process of doing so, he leaves little nuggets of text that suggest a much grimmer reality than he lets on at surface level.

Luxury Cruise is an apt description. You may be there to relax, but the experience is purposeless without the contrast of your real life. The ship may be stocked to the gills, but when things go belly up it quickly becomes clear how constrained the ship's resources truly are. You may be free to have fun now, but upset the wrong person on staff or become even a minor nuisance, and you'll soon learn how autocratically the ship is actually ran.

It's made quite clear that Australia cannot truly be considered a post-scarcity society. In AP, no individual's activities may exceed their allotment of resources (and certainly, there must be an allotment because one's resource consumption cannot come at the expense of another's)

In AP, anyone may be free to create, make, or do whatever they want, but whatever they want is tightly constrained. No individual's activities may make anyone uncomfortable. This is reflected in Brain's description of the criminal justice system, where he describes automated 'referees' detaining or potentially pre-empting citizen's control over their own bodies in response to an emotional outburst in public, "mainly because no one wants to be around when it happens". He describes this as if it were desirable. If this is seen as a proportional response, I would be terrified for anyone who sought to do or say anything of real consequence.

Finally, as evinced by my previous two examples: everything in Brain's world is on lease, down to your body. Once you're inside of the AP's network every sensation, sight, smell and action is recorded, analyzed, and mediated through it.

Your permission to use your body may be revoked at the leisure of an algorithm perfectly enforcing complex rules of indeterminate (if ostensibly democratic) origin. This happens so often it seems, that it's regard as "sort of like a lifeguard yelling at you at the pool for something you thought was OK".

Your privacy is forfeit, and it's quite clear that the closes thing one can come to owning anything in the AP is inside a virtual space.

Somehow Brain treats this as an ideal future. If this is the best we can hope for, I would sooner be drafted into WWIII than experience it.


I share your attitude towards the (meant to be) utopia world described in Marshall Brain's novel, but I presume that this may be just a shared cultural thing. Next generations seem to value less their privacy, or at least are less willing to resist privacy encroachments, and it shouldn't be that far-fetched to assume cultural leaning/conditioning to a more "integrated world" in the future. Also, there is another aspect that we conveniently leaving out, namely how the society deals with threats. For discussion's sake, let's pick on only the most uncontroversial ones like crime and sanity. We confine and restrict individuals in prisons and mental asylums respectively because that's the level of control that we currently have to avoid them affecting the society at large. The moment that level of control improves, like something closer to the brain, the aforementioned facility-based confinement becomes unnecessary and we may even get to feel good for letting at least some part of the otherwise problematic people be active in society. Will that brain control practice spill out to something less justifiable? Maybe. However, that's tomorrow's politics, and most likely tomorrow's world too, for better or worse.


I do agree that it's a cultural thing. American, European, and East-Asian lockdown policies have been massively instructive on the spectrum of humanity's willingness to submit to state and cultural authority.

But I wouldn't go so far as to say that the next generation values its privacy less than the previous. If anything, my observations would suggest it's the opposite.

The amount of energy and expertise required to function in society while avoiding the excesses of corporate surveillance has simply expanded past the point where people can realistically fight it. Younger people know that the war is lost.

No significant segment of the population truly appreciates the scale, and the precision with-which they're being tracked. But among my younger friends and family, there seems to be a persistent appreciation that privacy is a precious commodity in very short supply. They may not always be cognizant of it, of course. They grew up in this world, and it's impractical to think about the air you breath all the time, even if it's thick with smog. It's simply not realistic. They do intuitively know which battles are lost, moreso than 'older' folk past their late 20s who vividly remember the advent of Facebook, who like to grouse about the tracking of social media while aggressively ignoring the fact that the little spy in their pocket would be just as insidious in its violations with or without any apps installed.

But you need a phone to function in the modern world. You'll never be able to truly escape the panopticon without a great deal of money, and if you could you would have to leave everyone you ever knew behind, and many of your prospects to do so. And after all, it's not bit you yet. Better to resign yourself to what's already lost.

The Europeans I've known have generally been less reticent in their acceptance of the state of the world, FWIW.

To your second point...

My instincts, and my morality tells me we'd be better off with the prisons, and possibly the sanitariums. Not because of the potential downstream consequences, but because to psychologically muzzle anyone like that without their active and continuous consent would be an atrocity of the first order. Our criminal justice system in America is often abysmal. But at least our prisoners are not lobotomized for the comfort of those of us who find the idea of prisons offensive. They're granted at the very least, the dignity to resent those who locked them up.

I believe you're right, these are for the time hypotheticals. Tomorrow is a foreign land, but it's a foreign land in-which many of us will live. Regardless, it's incumbent on each and every one of us to ensure that that land shares in what virtues we consider right, and just.


  But at least our prisoners are not lobotomized for the
  comfort of those of us who find the idea of prisons
  offensive. They're granted at the very least, the
  dignity to resent those who locked them up.
I have good reason to dispute this, and yet I also have good reason to not do so very publicly. It's amazing what you can accomplish with modern pharmaceuticals.


Corporate security has something like this as well - there are little button shaped things on the wall everywhere they scan with their device as they make their rounds.


I have a NFC app on my phone, read one of those buttons ... they left it unlocked, so I posted a message. Not sure anyone will read it, presumably they just pick up the location ID in an app. I guess someone could just clone the locations and sit in a chair and spoof it.

Library books in my area use NFC, the tags weren't locked on the last book I checked.

Probably not a security problem (ha!?), but you'd think the possibility of vandalism would cause them to be locked.


I've seen buildings where the buttons are 'burried' in a few mm 'deep' the wall, and painted over so that you don't notice them at all, the wall looks really smooth. The guards know where exactly the spots are, you see them waving their devices in a seemingly flat/blank wall, then the beep sounds, and they walk towards their next 'random' spot.


I've often wondered how often NFC is unlocked like that.


Yep, those have been in retail stores forever. In the grocery store I worked in it was specifically for making sure there weren't hazards on the floor (like a broken jar that fell from a shelf) that someone could slip on and break their neck. It was required by their insurance.


Generally anywhere with security patrols, even outside some residential buildings and townhouses in San Francisco.



That’s a temperature sensor.


Back at home I used to see a schedule on a wall in most toilets(shopping centres, some public buildings) where rows with time slots were filled with names and signatures to ensure constant cleaning every 15-30 min.

Carrying a phone with a tracker is a complete BS.


I worked retail in highschool during the 90s. It was exactly like this. Just because something is possible with modern tech doesn't mean it should be done or is better than bog simple stuff like a log book.


As Meja sang some years back: it's all about the money (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcXMhwF4EtQ)(cute song)

Logbooks: someone needs to distribute them, collect them, read them, transfer the (many many many) written lines to a computer, validate the signature samples/writing style, etc. etc. An app that automates that in 2 mins is so much better.

A solution could be: 1) give each employee a (corporate) cheap $100 android phone, 2) configure these to allow only 1-2 apps to 'escape' to the internet so the bandwidth is not wasted on updates or browsing, 3) provide a 1GB per year data plan, 4) ask them to switch on right before entering the 'site' and switch off right when they leave the 'site' 5) give them a monthly $5 subsidy to keep it charged.


They don’t need to do anything but distribute and maybe collect them. Typically they simply look at them periodically and make sure they’re being filled out, and only closely looked at if there’s some kind of incident.


Yes and no.

This would cover some of the functions. How about overtime? How about 'less time'? How about an extra Sudnay because game/football/concert/office-party?

The HR of each company would need this data to adjust salaries.

I am not discussing incidents and/or user-access-management (apologies if my above comment was misunderstood). I meant it for time-tracking purposes. An app where one can add an exception note "I had to pop to X shop to buy Y material" would also help document and approve. Geofencing requirement makes sense in some lines of work and a work-phone (switched on only the work-hours) is a reasonably 'invasive' tool.


Maybe I just don't know how this industry works. Do people get paid based on the actual number of bathrooms cleaned and such? To be clear I'm talking about places where one of the regular employees just has 'bathroom duty'.

I've seen these logs and to me it always seemed that the point was for customers to see that the place was actually maintained. A customer can't tell whether a bathroom is cleaned only once a month and that's why it looks the way it does or whether the last guy just trashed the place after the last cleaning, which was an hour ago and based on the previous logs you can see, it will be cleaned again soon. Or that the cleaners didn't clean and just wrote on the paper. Which technology doesn't solve. You just wave the badge or whatever but don't do anything. And no, location tracking doesn't help with that. A dedicated slacker can listen to music or watch YouTube in different locations.


I always wondered what prevented an employee from skipping several check-ins, then filling in the missing signatures/timestamps at one time.


Random checks at random time.


This is also how Environmental Health and Safety ensures lab safety checks were done on things like the eye wash station.


That’s something Whole Foods uses for the subcontracted cleaning crews, not the directly-hired employees. They laid off all their maintenance crews a year before Amazon bought them.

It’s also not on the workers’ personal phones, they have some old phones that they keep at the store with the app already installed.


I think it's okay to track employees while on the clock for certain circumstances but that tracking should cease as soon as they are not on the clock.

An app on a personal phone can violate this way too easily. The tagging system is a good way to do it and limit it to only being on the clock.


I'd rephrase: it's ok to monitor that the jobs are being performed, and sometimes this involves an employee doing something in a certain place at a certain time.

Though highly-overlapping, this is not a 1:1 correspondence with "tracking employees."

You may need to know that a security guard visited this station at 1:00 and this station at 1:30. You do not need to track whether he was in the bathroom five minutes longer today that yesterday.


A real guard needs to run a somewhat random schedule, otherwise attackers will figure out the pattern. I don't need to know how long you spend in the bathroom (unless it is excessive), that is just data that I happen to get by tracking to ensure there is enough randomness in your patterns. It should go without saying that guards need sufficient time to handle biology needs, and this varies a bit.


If you are so high profile that attackers are trying to profile guard movement patterns, you need more than 1 guard, and they can take turns using the bathroom.


I think most grocery stores have something similar. When I worked at Giant about 15 years ago, I used a self-contained scan gun (basically an overpriced Windows Mobile 5 PDA stapled onto a barcode scanner) when I had to do "the walk," which was the hourly store inspection. Decidedly lower-tech than even a badge reader, but it got the job done and my boss didn't have to know where I was during my time off.


Stuff like this has also been around for decades. Detex (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchclock) was a manufacturer of Watch clocks that used a key at the inspection stations to verify that someone had been to inspect that location at a certain point in time.


This is partially due to liability: if someone slips on a wet spill and hurts themselves, Whole Foods is liable if they haven't been taking reasonable measures to clean up such spills in a timely fashion (1/hour). Scanning is a way to later prove that such cleaning was happening.


At my company, there are these black sensors on the walls around all the buildings. Security is supposed to patrol the buildings and they have to scan their badge at each sensor to show they were there.



Devil's advocate: I think the idea with the app isn't to figure out if you're in the building, but rather whether you're moving around within the building in a manner consistent with the fingerprint of doing your particular job. A janitor could clock in and then just sit around in the custodial storage area doing nothing, and a card-based system would be none the wiser. But the app would identify that as "not working."

The app isn't to know whether you're on the clock; the app is a digital whip cracker to keep employees constantly working 100% of the time that they claim to be working.

---

Which, in theory, wouldn't be a bad thing... if this was combined with a sufficient number of break-minutes per day, to be spent flexibly. Whenever you're not doing the "doing your job" movement pattern, the app could automatically mark you as being on break. If they calibrated the number of break-minutes to the actual average observed productivity of employees in each role across the industry, then the app would have a useful output — allowing employers to figure out who's doing less work than average. (And employees+unions could also use the data as evidence for uncompensated overtime disputes.)

But of course such a system won't be used/configured that way. Employers will instead wrong-headedly assume that their employees should be capable of productive output 100% of the time that they're not on their 90 minutes per shift of legally-mandated break time; and then will randomly punish/fire employees for taking "extra" breaks, even when those "extra" breaks merely bring them to the industry average level of productivity.


A janitor certainly could clock in then sit around in the custodial storage area doing nothing. They could also clock in and wonder around the building doing nothing. If the concern is really whether they are doing their job, management can easily verify by just checking whether the job was done.


You presume management has the capability to judge the quality of the work.

Janitorial work — like, say, being a sysadmin — doesn't necessarily result in instant visible problems if you just decide to skip work one day. The problems are probabilistic, and often consist of smaller problems that compound over time. In this sort of job, you can frequently "get away with" not doing your job for a few hours, at the expense of working a bit harder the rest of the day; you can sometimes even "get away with" not doing your job for a day or two, at the expense of likely having to do a bit of "fire-fighting" work when you get back, rather than only prophylactic maintenance work. In either case, your absence won't necessarily be noted, if you're not part of a team with a supervisor specifically attuned to the KPIs you're delivering on.

In jobs where "when you're doing the job right, nobody notices", the reverse also applies: as long as nobody is noticing anything going wrong, then they assume you're doing your job.


If nobody notices any difference then is there a problem? Why can't they work harder on even days and less hard on odd days if they want?

In your sysadmin example if someone prevents problems from happening they'd look worse than someone who constantly reacts. This already happens, why make it worse with an automated system?


Some things might not be noticeable, such as disinfecting certain surfaces or performing routine maintenance such as cleaning filters until it’s too late.


You are not going to check if it has been done by monitoring where the janitor goes.


Yep. This is why humans invented trust and consequences, though. Most people aren't dicks if you aren't dicks to them, and I'd rather discover the exceptions and fire them than treat everyone like one.


Trust doesn’t scale. And scaling results in much bigger rewards.

I’d say it’s more accurate that humans have had to rely on trust due to lack of alternatives, but transparency will always be preferred.


You don't need to scale supervision on janitors. You can just hire some people and pay them some money. If you can't afford enough supervisors to keep a vague eye on what's going on, live with dirtier buildings or go out of business.

In general I think some things scale well and others don't. Why is it that HN recognizes outsourcing your tech to try and scale fails but other jobs aren't as worthy?


> You presume management has the capability to judge the quality of the work.

If they don't have that capability then they shouldn't be managing that type of work. That goes for any industry.

You're not fit for management if you can't judge the work of those you are managing.


If we start mandating that managers be competent we're going to lose a large proportion of managers.


i'm a janitor and i hear about it any time i forgot to check paper products in a bathroom. managment are all experienced janitors that can easily tell if work's been done.

i mean, a toilet might need to be descaled. the well to tell is to look at the toilet.


But then checking where the janitor is, is like checking whether a programmer is typing.


The janitor is also, typically, the one who is going to sound the alarm first about things that need to be inspected in the building or further looked at.

In a school district where they have custodial staff on the payroll (not contracted) there's also sometime a bit of on-call.


> You presume management has the capability to judge the quality of the work.

I presume there was a job which needed doing, which is why management hired someone to do it. Management may have difficulty evaluating the quality or extent of the work done on any given day, but they should at least be able to evaluate whether it was done at all.

My point is location tracking doesn't provide management any assurances that the employee has done their job at all, much less how well they did it. It's a breach of the employee's privacy which doesn't even further management's goals any more than my privacy-respecting scanner solution.


> It's a breach of the employees privacy which doesn't even further management's goals any more than my privacy-respecting scanner solution.

One of my businesses is currently involved in a lawsuit by someone claiming they suffered a loss due to injury from stepping on a landscaping rock (about 3in x 2in x 1in) in the parking lot. They apparently took a picture of the rock, which was adjacent to the curb. The lawyer is claiming the business is responsible for ensuring the parking lot is clear of obstacles.

The crux of the case is not about whether or not this event even took place or if this person is faking it, they don’t have to prove that without wasting a lot of my insurance company’s money. The important part of the case is whether or not the business took reasonable steps to ensure the parking lot was free of obstruction.

For this, the plaintiff’s lawyer has deposed the facilities’ manager, the landscaping company, and any staff working that day. All incredibly costly procedural tactics to try and get a settlement. Which they most likely will get from the insurance company.

However, these legal costs might be avoided if I could produce electronic logs proving the facilities manager performed routine inspection duties. This is one example of when breaching an employees’ privacy in the manner in question can further management’s goal (and bottom line).


I'm no attorney, but were I in charge of representing the plaintiff and you presented logs showing your facilities manager's locations throughout the day of the incident, my first question would be something like "how does this prove he verified the parking lot was clear?"

It's the same issue. Knowing where the janitor was is not the same as knowing whether she did her job. Knowing where your facilities manager was is not the same as knowing whether he did his.

Like I said, IANAL. I have no idea how well that would hold up in court. Regardless, I'm confident security cameras would be at least just as effective for defending your business in cases like this.


Because it’s not about proving they verified the parking lot was clear. It’s about proving the business did what is “reasonable” to prevent the problem. It’s why those wet floor signs are so important. The business is being attacked, and the insurance company is looking for any holes in the defense.

Any holes in the offense don’t matter, because the plaintiff isn’t going to suffer any loss, and their lawyer is working on commission.

So the only person that stands to lose is business and insurance company. Insurance company will fight if it’s open and shut, meaning they don’t think they will have to risk a lot of legal fees trying to shoot down various plaintiff’s claims.

But if it looks like plaintiff could drag this out and find a possibility of culpability on behalf of the business, the insurance company will pay to make them go away. And the business’ insurance premiums will rise.

Security camera footage would of course be the gold standard in this case. But storing video for so long and having so many cameras is also costly. Using GPS to prove your employee did their duties of at least inspecting the parking lot by showing they walked around it at various times might be something the insurance company can use in their defense.

Also, in my specific example, the plaintiff waited almost 11 months to file their lawsuit. These type of people know to wait as long as the legal system allows them to, to increase the likelihood the business has misplaced or thrown out records and memories get fuzzy.


> Because it’s not about proving they verified the parking lot was clear. It’s about proving the business did what is “reasonable” to prevent the problem.

If that's the case, isn't your business already going what is "reasonable" by virtue of employing a facilities manager whose job includes ensuring the grounds are clear of dangerous obstructions while the facility is in operation?

Regardless, this scenario doesn't really jive with my assertion that it should be illegal for employers to track their employees. Were that the case, the court's definition of what is "reasonable" could not include maintaining records of your employees' locations throughout the workday, as doing so would be illegal. Although your scenario does at least provide a hypothetical for why a business would consider tracking employees in the absence of such a law. Hopefully courts never set a precedent to actively encourage that kind of tracking.


In a civil suit, what's "reasonable" is up for debate, and it depends on how much you want to spend on lawyer time to prove it. The lesson is clear, if it's cheap enough, then arming yourself with more information is only beneficial to you. So much that it might make business sense to violate the employees' privacy.

The ability to track people's precise locations due to the proliferation of smartphones and various wireless technologies is pretty new, and probably hasn't been tested in various court cases yet.

I know at one point, it was enough to have paper logs of your drivers. But now, electronic GPS tracking is so cheap and commonplace, that the court might say as a business, it is your responsibility to utilize it to ensure your drivers are not regularly speeding.

The problem with civil cases is there are few well defined standards. And if you're in the sweet spot where your business is doing well enough to be a nice target, but not well enough to have lawyers on staff who can deal with swatting them down, then you've got some decent risk exposure you need to address. And the best way to do that is to have as much information as possible.

I'm sure the only reason this issue of tracking is coming up is only because it's so incredibly cheap to track them, since the employee already has a phone on them, the access points or wireless signals are already there, it costs almost nothing to physically download the app and enable functionality, and it costs almost nothing to store this data. At that point, it's a calculation of do we spend this minimal fee to protect from a host of litigation where we can prove this person was at this place at this time.

I find that many of my friends who are office employees or haven't operated a public facing business are unaware of these types of problems that you don't have to deal with when you don't physically entertain random people of the public, thereby greatly reducing your risk exposure to these kinds of scams.

>Regardless, this scenario doesn't really jive with my assertion that it should be illegal for employers to track their employees.

Yes, if it was illegal, it would eliminate this problem. But my intent was to show that at least some of the impetus might not be to make the employees' life worse.


The article says that the app only logs when they enter/exit the geofence, not how they move around inside the building. Not to say that they wouldn't want to do that if they could, but GPS location is not really reliable indoors.


Yup. Anything metal messes with GPS. Phones have fallback modes but they can fail spectacularly at times. Even outdoors--sometimes my phone won't navigate sitting on the passenger seat (The GPS constellation guarantees a minimum of 4 satellites above the horizon, it doesn't guarantee 4 satellites in positions that won't be blocked by your car roof.) If you drive onto the property with your phone on your person or in a purse on the passenger seat the geofence might fail to detect it.

There's a boss somewhere who didn't look into this well enough.


Easily fixed with subsonic transmitters or bluetooth beacons

Both are used heavily in tracking apps ( think shopkick if it still exists )


I'll be completely honest: it's pretty easy to know if a building has been cleaned by just... being in the building.

To me, this sounds like one layer of bureaucrats trying to justify their jobs. Truth is, with unionized school districts, for every custodian doing the job, minor maintenance and inspections, there are a few bureaucrats in offices looking at spreadsheet and attending government sponsored management seminars on how to streamline the organization...


Nope

If you cannot tell the space has been cleaned, get new glasses. If you can tell and it is dirty, give me a warning and then fire me. Otherwise nunyabizness


Those are pretty good glasses if you can see the covid virus on surfaces.


Speaking of things the CDC has recently finally admitted isn't actually that important...


Or they could have some check if things are cleaned. We accept so much detailed tracking when in reality it is unnecessary and open to abuse.


I imagine more detailed tracking will result in lower insurance premiums as culpability can be more easily established. This will give a competitive advantage to those that implement detailed tracking.


You can either pay someone $20 an hour and give them a sense of responsibility, autonomy, & pride, or you can pay them $10 an hour and just coerce them to do the job.

Which do we reward?


Based on the proportion of businesses that exist utilizing the latter, it indicates we are rewarding the latter. Most people are very price sensitive.


The cost of the tracking plus the cost of employee moral disappearing won't give you that competitive advantage plus the other extras youhave to do to maintain that rate (do you have a logbook of the times you had the unit serviced, semi-yearly maintance is required at your cost)


It could (and does in my experience) as the cost of tracking goes down to practically nothing. If the employee has options to work elsewhere, then the employee morale might enter into the equation. But as far as I can see, even doctors and pharmacists are tracked nowadays. Drivers are tracked more than ever, dash cams are becoming regular. Call center employees have been tracked for a long time now. Hotel employees have iPads where they go through their checklist.

And if you're indoors in a public business setting, there's a near certainty you're on camera for any big business. Of course, there's a difference in tracking minute by minute movement, but my point is that we went from no tracking to quite a bit of tracking already, and I don't see any reason why this won't become widespread either (absent laws preventing it).


It might not be a competitive advantage to disrespect your employees.


Unfortunately, there are large swaths of jobs where the employees don't have much choice, so there is no competitive disadvantage either.


Teaching people to be tracked is always a bad thing. If a janitor isn't doing their job then it will become evident quickly enough or their manager isn't paying attention and both will eventually be fired. Not everything has to be done and observed down to the microsecond.


Low tech is the way to go. People want to equip electric cars with tracking devices to determine road taxes. It’s like they don’t realize each car has a yearly inspection and odometer reading. The added value of knowing exactly how many miles are driven in state or out of state will just be noise.


I used to work for an IoT startup that is doing vehicle tracking. Along with the main market of rental cars, the client also wanted to track rural vehicles for off-road distances.

Over a few months, I designed and implemented an algorithm for counting the distance travelled off-road. It took a TomTom road map of the whole country (not a cheap license fee), divided the trip into pairs of points, checked whether each segment intersected with or came within 10m of a road, and finally made a total of the distance. There were deviations (odometer compared to on road + off road straight line distance) but it was good enough to be usable, and we shipped it. It also generated reports for reclaiming road tax for off-road driving.

In practice, the client realised that our $7 per vehicle per month fee for the service will only save them $2 or $3 in road taxes for their most off-road vehicle. Just because it's technically exciting doesn't make it financially logical.


The place where I did my internship used electronic keys that one would have to activate when coming into work each day (at least one of those little wall mounted stations (not much bigger than a fire alarm trigger) for that purpose on each floor in the stairwells). It would then stay active and capable of opening doors for ~8 hours, ie. a normal work day.

Also, a nifty feature of these things as explained to me by the on-site guy dealing with electronics (including the management of these keys): these keys could be managed in different ways, e.g. grouped for departments, grunts vs. managers etc. AND the settings didn't have to be flashed to every single key or every single activation station, but instead flashed to one key (like the one of this employee) who then went around to a couple of stations and "activated" his key again, thereby transferring the updated/new setting(s) to the station which would then update every key inserted into it etc. etc.

Meaning the key management was quite literally "viral".


Schools can have a lot of different buildings and outdoor spaces. There’s nothing to stop an employee from scanning in, leaving campus, then coming back to scan out. Ethical questions aside, tracking their location is a much better way to see if they’re actually on-site throughout their shift.


I bet they could produce 90% accurate data without any installations on personal phones, just watching for wifi beacons


Just buy the data from telco providers - they already track your location by cell tower.


> truck drivers are being tracked routinely and nobody makes a big fuss about that.

I know a number of truck drivers and they _hate_ it. Routing software is imperfect, accidents happen that have to be detoured, and every detour is another grilling by management who is staring you down like you're an inbred imbecile and asking "Why did you deviate?" They often well know why, but the procedure is clear. You just don't hear about it from truckers because the job is mercurial - turnover is high because the conditions suck, and its a lower item in a laundry list of grievances that truckers have.

And if I'm frank; A lot of people don't hear about it on this forum because they move in a different economic circle.

Being constantly overwatched and second-guessed is demeaning. It ruins work-place dignity, ensures there is no sense of trust between labor and leadership, and removes any feelings of agency from the laborer. As with any data-collecting system, it will also be relentlessly gamed.

Worse, you can have your cake and eat it too. You almost never need momentary data like this to check-and-balance your workplace. Why track drivers relentlessly when you can do statistical data analysis on order completion, fuel consumption, route times, and other models that allow you to average out all the chaos?

Results will speak for themselves, relationships will pay off. The solution to this 'problem' already exists, it's engaging with your workforce and focusing on results. It is bad. It's dehumanization in the workplace. The system worked just fine when people clocked in, clocked out, and the manager looked and said, "Yep, that hall is clean."

I wouldn't accept a keylogger, or strict grilling of my web history. I wouldn't accept being sleuthed on by my manager either. Humans deserve a base level of dignity in the work-place.


I used to write that sort of software. We would coach the dispatchers on how to use the system. If they used it that way most of the time the drivers would start to vandalize the system in some way pretty much every time. We would then talk to the drivers and make sure the dispatchers would use the system correctly too.

Every group though would go though the 'you are spying on me' to 'love it'. Recover 1 or 2 stolen loads and suddenly that entire terminal would love the thing. Also at the time electronic logs let most drivers get a pass from the cops. The cops would take one look at it and nope out. I doubt it is that way anymore. Most of the time we encouraged the dispatchers to look for deviation of norm and encourage the drivers to note it (most systems have this built in) and it is in the law anyway even when you had to do it by hand. Mostly it caught that one group of dudes who had particular strip joints they would swing by on the clock. Which was a more of 'dont care you go, but I am not paying for it'. This usually made them even more mad. Mostly because of embarrassment, and the loss of income. Your idea of 'average it out' is exactly how it used to be done (and is still in some cases). But the thing is LTL, short, long haul has razor thin margins. If your average is higher than someone else's they will beat you out in the end. You add in more tracking (because your competitor will) as you need to find those spots where the average is not right and skewed because of years of doing it a different way.

If you have dispatchers getting mad for a 20 min deviation then the dispatcher is using the system wrong. The proper way to correct that is for the drivers to talk to them and use the built in messaging systems. If that does not work, document it and take it up with his boss or the shop steward. The dispatcher is probably hot because he had to pay OT to 3 other guys who should have clocked out 2 hours ago because you are late and now they left and no one to unload your stuff. His boss is mad at him because he is 6% overbudget again this month. All because some DOT guy in another state is 6 weeks behind doing their job and has half the interstate down to 1 lane for 30 miles.

Given all of that. I would never be a driver. It is a low trust environment... Hence the tracking.


I have a key logger and some program that takes pictures and captures the clipboard as well. But it’s a work machine and I only use if for work.

One thing is for sure, when we are going to be hacked completely it won’t be solar winds it’ll be all these spyware security programs of the week.


I got to hear about these truck systems from the subject of it and from someone who used to implement it in the same thread once (don't have a link). Everyone eventually sees that it's rotten, and the implementer in this case got out of the business once they realized the harm they were enabling.


Agreed. Provide a phone at the workplace.

Pickup phone at the start of the day, check in, toss it in a pocket and go to work. Check out, put phone in locker or some storage... done.

But just to expand on that.

I think this is one of those things that also kinda demonstrates a lack of faith and trust between the employer and employee and can be damaging to the whole relationship.

When I had my first job as a manager (low level technical support job) I was a jerk. Not in what I said but in enforcing rules about what is on people's PCs and etc, because that was how that place operated so I did too. One guy on the verge of quitting asked me "Does any of this really matter / help me do my job?" I realized ... probably not / this was a total hassle for me, and him, and everyone. It was just a big distrusting type environment we had going on. I told him and the rest of my team "I'm not checking PCs anymore or anything like that, just be responsible, make good choices."

What happened? The team was happier, and nothing bad happened. I was happier at work, so were they, and I saw customer satisfaction (granted that's a shaky metric) go up ... I assume because everyone was happier / more pleasant to talk to with the customers.

Ages later... I still feel kinda dumb about the whole thing. I really emulated the whole asshole hall monitor type thing for a while. It was completely without value / detrimental.


> I think this is one of those things that also kinda demonstrates a lack of faith and trust between the employer and employee and can be damaging to the whole relationship.

This has historically always been an issue in many workplaces. Especially in jobs were people are "interchangeable" and easily replaced and has no leverage, because in those kinds of job the threshold before having the kind of conversation you related becomes much higher, and the incentive for listening lower.

The infamous Triangle Waistcoat Factory fire [1], for example, was as lethal as it was because employers locked the factory doors to prevent unauthorised breaks.

The worst excesses were stopped because they outright killed people and the technological alternatives were not there. But increasingly technology is becoming a way of virtually caging people instead of actually caging them.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fi...


As a new manager, especially with a work culture like you describe, it can definitely be easier to go with the flow and be an asshole "like everyone else"

If you do things differently, you open yourself up to criticism and if anything does go bad, you're likely never going to hear the end of it.

Good on you for stopping that vicious circle and being an example of a good manager.


Personnel location crosses a line to me. If you want to track location, put the locator on company property like the cleaning cart that custodians push around.


This might be legal, but it's still bad management. If you don't trust your employees and you don't think you can evaluate the results of their work, in this case if things are clean, that's on you as a manager to figure out. Tying it in to the process like this and you end up getting false flags when they spend a long time cleaning a mess, or reward them for not cleaning sufficiently to hit their movement metrics.


A small minority of work can't easily be directly evaluated.

If I hire a security patrol company, and they contract to provide a patrol that will visit twice a night and walk around the building, nonperformance would be almost undetectable.


Punch clocks were standard 100 years ago. The nightguard was supposed to press the button on clocks dotted around the building when he passed them. No app on the personal phone required.


If a robbery or damaged occured you would know. If you audited the cameras. If you had a second employee.

Tracking location by the second isn't necessary and can be defeated with a rc car and a piece of tape by a 6 year old or robot (the tommy robot from the 80s would be perfect) or drone if you want to stay upto date.


There may be cases sure, but this isn't one of them.


Security patrols have little RFID style markers around the building they scan to prove when they were there. That's standard practice at least in Europe.


Fwiw, it's not tracking location

> The app, called Blip, generates a geofence — a virtual boundary, created by the employer using GPS — that detects when an employee enters or leaves.


In the article it says the app claims not to track location outside of the geofence, but it's unclear exactly what information is being tracked and where it is stored. I'd really be interested to compare the data transfer inside and outside that geofence.


What is that if not location tracking?


I understand location tracking as being tracked, i.e. someone knows where I am at any given time. Here it's a binary information. Inside the fence (place of employment) or not. Once you're out, all the employer knows is that you're not at work.

Don't get me wrong, I despise this but it's not tracking strictly speaking.


> Inside the fence (place of employment) or not.

But to do that you have to share location permissions all the time with the app. And you have to trust it enough to give it those permissions.

Also here's a solution with no app and no location tracking: detect when a phone has connected to on-premise WiFi.


>Also here's a solution with no app and no location tracking: detect when a phone has connected to on-premise WiFi.

I was about to suggest the same. Always-on location tracking is an extremely lazy and disrespectful way to replace a punch card.

Here's your replacement app:

- When arriving at work, you open the app while on employer's WiFi and tap "Start my shift"

- Before leaving work, you open the app and tap "End my shift" (but this is not required)

- During your shift, the service tries to periodically validate that your phone is still on WiFi (via LAN pings, silent push notifications that trigger checkins, or background polling)

- During your shift, if the service can't verify that your phone is still on the WiFi for 30+ minutes, it sends you a push notification asking you to open the app and check in. Otherwise, it ends your shift.

- If there's some WiFi dead zone in the workplace where they need to work for more than an hour, give the employee the option to respond with a one-time GPS location instead of joining the WiFi.

Boom. This was not hard. Doesn't even need internal infrastructure; can do this whole thing based on WAN IPs.


How should anyone know this? Is this app open source?


My company wanted me to use the intuit TSheets app for clock in/out. This would do a similar thing with geofencing but would also notify me during times I wasn't at work that it was generating a geofence for my current location even though I wasn't even clocked in.

Told my manager I simply wouldn't use it and why and he gave me permission to use the webapp on the company issued laptops.

Last thing I need is my manager seeing me traversing the city drunk at 2am or whatever. I'm not on their time so whatever I'm doing is none of their business.


Are we sure that's all it's doing, or is geofencing just the primary function of the app? Does the app have no ability to save/track coordinates, and do the terms of service/privacy policy reflect that?


That is location tracking.


Geofencing vs. continuous location tracking is an implementation decision about power efficiency only. For data privacy and permissions, these are not distinguished.

A user cannot elect to grant "geofencing only" permission. And even if they could, users have no way to audit the geofence coordinates to verify that they are being used in the described manner.

Even if implemented exactly as described, it's not hard to see why this can still leak non-work-related personal data. If an employee walks past their workplace at 2 AM, that's not information that an employer should have.


You know you need to track location for that to work, right?


Technically no, the client does not have to send the exact location to its server at all times to determine if the device is within the fence.


Truck driving is an interesting case because there are laws restricting when and how long a driver is allowed to operate, and those hours must be logged. At the same time, that logging is done on a company-owned device (or, less and less often now, a paper log booklet), and only when the employee is using the work vehicle.

It's completely unreasonable to expect employees to consent to location tracking when they aren't at work. But if the employer is requiring use of a smartphone app as condition of employment, they need to provide and pay for the device and service, period.


> I think this is not something bad in itself - such practice is well known, for instance truck drivers are being tracked routinely and nobody makes a big fuss about that.

I disagree strongly because this is the typical frog in boiling water scenario. You don't see it coming untill it is too late.

Truck drivers are not tracked individually instead the trucks they drive are. This is very different to tracking a human being, even if it is under the guise of a phone.

Also a HN reader should at least be able to foresee the dystopian future this leads to. Data analytics on toilet breaks, and how employee 115 seems to take longer than the average by 10% which is now a metric for some middle manager to use.


> for instance truck drivers are being tracked routinely and nobody makes a big fuss about that

Truck drivers and their families did and still do make a fuss about it. It's just not something that the media or wider culture has cared about.


I routinely make a fuss about truck drivers. Dispatch will schedule them for back to back driving shifts and then call the cops on them if they decide they cannot drive safely and need to sleep. The cops are there to do a welfare check (harass them) to get them going again


Unless the driver has parked in an unsafe location (fire lane, impeding traffic, etc) I cannot imagine a police officer would give a damn about whether or not a truck driver was behind schedule.

There are pretty strict legal limits (in the US at least) over how long a driver can be on the road without taking a break.

In fact, unless they only hire owner-operators, falling asleep at the wheel and causing an accident will almost certainly jack up the company's insurance rates, much worse than them running behind an overly tight schedule.


Unless the cops were told they absconded with the truck.

An abusive trucking company can accuse their drivers of steeling trucks or cargo when they're behind schedule. I've never heard of that happening, but I don't doubt the poster who said it does. It's too bad we don't come down harder on those who make such bad faith accusations of steeling.


I have no idea where you are from, but "absconding" isn't really something the police get involved in.

Either the driver has a right to be in the truck, at the location he is at, or not. If he does, the police don't care, because there is no crime. If he doesn't, that is theft.

If it is theft, they don't let the driver drive on with a promise to behave; the truck (and all the goods in it) get impounded to be claimed by the company and the driver gets hauled off to jail. That would be a way worse outcome for the company.


And that's excluding the potential legal fallout from reporting their own employee for theft because the employee was taking a break mandated by law; not only would the employer act in bad faith, it would also incriminate them in regards to forcing their employees to break the law!


Truck drivers are making a huge fuss about electronic logging devices (ELDs). They say these trackers reduce safety in a variety of ways. I recommend the “Over the Road” podcast which is where I learned about this.


> truck drivers are being tracked routinely and nobody makes a big fuss about that.

This is not true. There have been some massive protests from truck drivers over this issue and it's a big turnoff for many potential and current drivers.


Fully agree. No employer shall tell me what to install on my private phone.

Come to think of it this might be a really good reason to get an obscure phone (PinePhone?) as your personal phone so they can't do this.

"Yeah, this is my phone, sorry, your app won't work with it"

But regardless, employers should provide a work phone if they want an app installed, and the work phone should NOT have to be carried around 24/7 unless it's an on-call rotation, and in which case the rotation duty cycle should be limited to a reasonable number e.g. 10% or less.


This seems so cheap/easy to get right it's nuts.

Get the cheapest tablet you can find that's reliable and has GPS. Whack the location app on that. Stick a todo list on it that they can push items to. Sorted.

Tie the todo list to the locations and leave it on the cart - you can track the work instead of the person. It doesn't matter if they've gone outside for a smoke, it matters that the work's getting done.


False. Truck drivers are not tracked. Trucks are tracked.

Truck drivers are often in their trucks but they are not personally tracked. There is a difference. If the sanitation workers mop and bucket were tracked it would still be silly but much less offensive than asking someone to download a tracking app on their personal device that much be with them at all times.


Isn't it trucks being tracked, not the drivers? I don't anything about that industry but I can't imagine the drivers are made to carry tracking devices.


It depends, in China drivers are being tracked with face recognition cams and they receive warnings if they start to slumber. Saw it in some TV documentary so I don't remember the sources to this.


Decades ago we implemented a time card system which worked by having the employee use a phone at the location, many locations had one or more phones which could be used, to clock in and out of work. Since we used an ANI feed you could not spoof it; I cannot guarantee that is or is not possible to spoof now.

I certainly cannot agree with requiring workers to use their own phone for this. if the company wants that app then it should provide the phone or use another means to guarantee they are on site.

Truckers being tracked is because the penalties involved are very real and enforced for reasons of safety to drivers and other users of the nations roads. tracking someone cleaning buildings or homes is a bit on the absurd side as most of us agree


Because the private phone is the one the person wants not to be without when they go on their three hour lunch.

But that is actually wrong.

Suppose I have two devices: work and personal. Suppose I have the choice where to install this thing.

I'm going to put it on my personal one, and leave that at my post while I go for that three hour luch. I will take the work device, so I can monitor what is going on at work, and be prepared to scurry back on a moment's notice.

Ideally, I would get some second personal device for this app, like an old phone I no longer use. Leave that at work, and go for the three hour lunch with both the work device and the non-decoy personal one.


I think the nature of the work is a bit different though. Truck driving is an inherently geospatial and logistical industry, as well as a regulated one in the sense that employers have to make sure their drivers are resting. Likewise, client value is also derived from knowing exactly where their delivery is, if it's delayed, where it's delayed, etc.. Also the trucks are often owned by the company, so they're at the very least just keeping tabs on their assets.

This is different than say, a software developer's computer tracking their location for purely surveillance reasons.


Not that the conditions for the a truck driver are any different in terms of privacy (though they might see more of a benefit for themselves to deter carjackings or kidnappings) but I think that the case for fleet management, logistics and anti-theft/smuggling is a bit stronger than for knowing whether a person is physically present on premises when cleaning a building.


Maybe it’s just me but I can see a very different liability and risk factor between a janitor and the operator of a multi-ton vehicle carrying a range of goods or hazardous materials to keep track of.


Is the truck driver tracked, or the truck? If the driver leaves the truck, are they still tracked? I think there is a difference between a vehicle being tracked, and an individual person.


You could consider the company is not hiring Mary-the-cleaner for $16.40 per hour, but is now asking to hire Mary-the-cleaner and her phone for $16.40 per hour.

That would put the responsibility on Mary to maintain the phone in working order, and the employer could refuse to pay unless both things they are paying for are present and correct.

It's a scummy practice, sure, but hiring two things as a package isn't illegal in itself.


> It's a scummy practice, sure, but hiring two things as a package isn't illegal in itself.

I believe this would technically depend on whether one is employed or self-employed.

Only self-employed people are generally obligated to provide tools of their trade; whereas, personal tracking strongly implies employment. It shouldn't be both. (This all may depend on jurisdiction and specific circumstances, obviously)

Given that the article clearly says the person was employed before being required to download an app, this also feels like a breach of contract by the employer.

In your terms: They employed the worker, not the worker and their phone.


Alternately, the company hired Mary-the-cleaner at $16.40 an hour, and is now asking for Mary-and-her-phone at the same rate. Which puts the responsibility on the company to provide the device they want her to use while she is working.


They didn't require "her phone" until after she was already working for them. They didn't hire two things "as a package".


At a previous employer we would only push changes to production when all regions were outside office hours, which ended up being around 3AM for us. Only a few people had access to push changes, which they did from home (run deploy script, go through a checklist of what should have changed, run revert script if there's a problem). They'd get paid for being on-call, and used an authentication app to access our systems.

One day my boss asked if I would install this authentication app on my phone, so I would be able to push changes. I refused, stating that my phone is my private property. This resulted in quite a long conversation, with reassurances about security, etc. but I didn't budge. At one point they stated that my "argument wouldn't work" if it was on a company-provided phone. I completely agreed and said that would be fine, which seemed to surprise them.

I don't think it had even occurred to them that I was being honest: I didn't want to install random things on my phone. I wasn't making up some excuse to avoid being on call in the early hours.

(Of course, I also wasn't going to suggest a way to end up on call in the early hours!)


Surprisingly enough, I see a lot of people installing whatever tools their company uses on their personal phone/smartwatch _without anybody in the company asking them to do so_. It just seems like an "obvious" thing to do for people. I've never had to argue about it with anyone as you did, but if it happened I can already see the other person asking me, surprised, why I don't have Slack on my phone and how do I keep in touch with work outside of the office.


I personally installed several of these apps because it allows me to respond to emails and messages while I'm not home (running errands, doing chores, playing hookie, etc). This, in turn, gives me much more freedom while working from home. To me, this outweighed whatever privacy issues people can come up with. Funnily enough, this has probably had the opposite of the intended effect, which is to increase productivity.


I was not talking about privacy issues but that's actually a good reason too.


It's because people don't think of these implications, and software companies are deliberately dishonest these days. People are stuck in the mindset that tech companies are benevolent with their customers best interest at heart, and are somehow different in philosophy than those cold hard brick and mortar companies that only care about a dollar. This is why Chrome market share remains so high.

They probably get an unsolicited email every 10 days, just like I do, from slackbot, asking them to install the slack desktop client to get a "better experience," because someone at work added you to the slack channel. Only they don't realize that the slack desktop app is just a second web browser dedicated to going to slack.com, that they are running while they are presumably running their first web browser. Slackbot doesn't tell you that you are wasting compute having two browsers open, just that it's 'better' somehow than running the site on the browser you already have open. It also isn't very clear that once you have slack open, all your coworkers can see you are "available" like its 2001 and you are logging into AIM.


> It's because people don't think of these implications

Even if they don't, I'd assume they would uninstall it as quick as they installed it when they start receiving notifications from colleagues during their break lunch or on the weekend. But it doesn't seem to be what the majority of people do. Not sure why people feel morally or socially obligated to keep checking what's going on at work on a 24/7 basis.

I wonder if there is a link with Twitter/Facebook/Instagram addictions.


Probably depends on the culture. My slack is pretty dead generally. However, imagine you are a new hire. You see the slack is active. You want to be seen, so you are now active on slack, and it ramps up from there. I think its less addiction, and more corporate-culture virtue signalling. "Look at how much I'm on slack 'working' and how readily I throw away my personal free time to be here on slack, please promote me."

I think slack knows a certain amount of people are like this, and have crafted the patterns in their product to maximize this behavior. That's why I get many notification emails a day that frequently leave out messages or repeat ones I've been sent already, to maximize my time checking the main client and be thinking of slack throughout the working day. Slack wants organizations to feel reliant on its services, even when it does little more in practice than email threads have done for my org at least.


Android work profiles make this so easy - it doesn't appear as easy on iOS, but I was never a big iOS user.

I don't mind using resources on my personal device, I mind the access to my personal information. Carrying two phones vs. one for isolation make sense, but if the isolation can be done in hardware/software on the same device it's much easier for me.


Work profiles are okay. They're a little buggy for my taste (e.g., I still have the wrong Play Store installed after removing my last work profile), and I think the remote IT department has a little too much control over the device (e.g., rather than being able to push an update immediately no matter how expensive the network I'm on might be -- I think it would be much more reasonable to just restrict work profile app access till after I've installed such an update at my leisure).


> why I don't have Slack on my phone and how do I keep in touch with work outside of the office.

I always ask why should I keep in touch with work during my private time. If it is really important, one could call my phone. If one does not bother to find my phone number, that means it is not urgent at all.


Hear Hear. What's worse is that corp software generally comes with corp governance and the ever so fun 'we can wipe your phone remotely in case it gets lost' policy.

No. Way.


I'll install anything my employer wants on my phone provided they've provided me with the phone :)

How did your situation work out?


Anything? What about software that continuously records everything you say and sends it to your employer?

If we're suddently ok with all kinds of intrusions, just because we got agree phone, that seems like a bad deal.


As another response says: turn off phone is an option. Leave in another room. Note: I didn't say I'd carry this phone with me 100% of the time OR keep it turned on. These are good secondary rules to discuss. (Tangent: how do I know my work computer doesn't already do this?)


If it's not your personal phone, you can just turn the work phone off when you do not want to be spied on.


> How did your situation work out?

I didn't hear anything else about it ;)

I ended up leaving after a pretty gruelling death-march (full backend replacement, with a "big bang" switchover). That switched a lot of things to .Net, which is a path I didn't want to go down in any case.


> I ended up leaving after a pretty gruelling death-march (full backend replacement, with a "big bang" switchover). That switched a lot of things to .Net, which is a path I didn't want to go down in any case.

God this made me nauseous just reading it.


If any of the "normal" apps (Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator) had a monitoring backend that my employer could use, I'd be angry with Google/Microsoft for adding that functionality rather than upset that my employer made me install it.

I don't want to carry around two devices so I'd much rather have company apps on my phone. Obviously, that is as long as the apps seem resonable, like a 2FA app. If I had to install "person location tracker by shadycorp" I'd just refuse even on a corporate phone.

But 2FA app on my personal phone vs being required to carry 2 devices? I think the first is much more appealing.


" telling employees to download an app on their personal phones that would check their location and ensure they were working their scheduled hours."

That's 100% illegal on this side of the pond at least, if the company wants an employee to use an app they can provide a company phone. Then sure, whatever, she could switch the business phone off after hours, no problem at all.


Or just leave it on her desk at work. She could be working 24x7! If anything, this makes work hours fraud even easier.


Company is responsible to provide the hardware. The only issue I have is the use of personal equipment.


Yes, asking employees to put spyware on their personal phone is crossing a line.


This should be the answer. If the company requires the use of an "app" as a condition for doing a job, it should also provide a device that can run such an app. Is the janitor also required to bring her own mop from home to use on the job?


> That's 100% illegal on this side of the pond at least

Interestingly enough the app is built by a company in the UK.


If I recall correctly we also produce a lot of medicinal cannabis despite it still being pretty much illegal and as good as not recognized as a treatment for anything.

The UK is a rich man's country


The app isn't the problem, the hardware is.

And also the company's ability to trust their employees, but that's another discussion.


From the article:

  - "Toronto employment lawyer Lior Samfiru told Go Public that employers can compel employees to download an app on their cell phone — but only if they're told it's a requirement when they are hired."

So it's legal. Moreover, the lawyer continues saying that an employer can fire someone for any reason. So, if you don't sign an addendum with app requirement and install the app on your personal phone, then you are fired.

Now, I am amazed that an employer can legally have rights on other properties (hardware and data), and we are speaking of Canada here. I fear to know what they can do on more liberal countries (like the usa).


On the other hand, here in the UK you cannot claim unfair dismissal until you have worked somewhere for at least 2 years so...


I'm not sure that's completely correct though I'm not an expert. If the company fired you for a reason which is illegal and were stupid enough to tell you then I think you would still have recourse. If they fired you for some other plausible reason then, yeah, tough luck.


If you've been there less than 2 years, they're not required to provide the reason. It's "at will" employment like the US. Like you say, if they stupidly choose to say something you might have a case but why would they?

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/leaving-a-job/dismiss....


>>If you've been there less than 2 years, they're not required to provide the reason

I think you're misunderstanding the page. The employer is always required to provide a reason, whether you worked somewhere 1 week, 1 year, or 20 years. It's just that within the first 2 years of employment you don't have the right to challege the dismissal UNLESS it was for a discriminatory reason. But yes, no employer ever would say "we're letting you go because you're pregnant"(or maybe they would).

>> It's "at will" employment like the US.

Well, not quite. They still have to legally give you notice(only 1 week is required legally if you worked less than 2 years, but yes).


Yeah, but they can say "you're pregnant? In an unrelated matter were letting you go because it's Thursday". And you cannot challenge that.


You absolutely can. If you think your dismissal was due to a discriminatory reason, you can absolutely challenge it, no matter what was actually officially given as the reason. After all no one ever writes "fired for being black" yet people win racial discrimination cases all the time. 2 years or not, you have that right.

What you cannot do is challege as dismissal as unfair for any non-discriminatory reason. It has absolutely nothing to do with what the employer wrote down as the reason for dismissal, it's the question of what grounds are you challenging them on.


Yeah, but then you have to prove it. Previously your employer had to show the dismissal was fair, now you have to show it was not. In such subjective cases, that is very hard. Like you say, no one will say "you're too black, you're fired". But before they had to actually have a reason that wasn't subjective. Now they don't, they can hide behind the equivalent of "no comment" and you have to find evidence...


A lot of jobs seem like modern slavery. Rather than focus on the deliverable, managers and people who pay money focus more on the "controlling someone" aspect. Tech has enabled this in a big way.


Why do you think so many US businesses fight against universal healthcare? Employers want every possible measure of control over their employees that they can get.


I never thought about it like this. This makes a lot of sense and is blowing my mind. I've worked at the same company for the last 16 years partly because of fear of losing healthcare.


Come and live in a country where healthcare is not tied to your job in any remote way, and see how differently people behave. It really is night and day.

When my brother came back to Australia after 5 years away he said the biggest thing he noticed was not driving on the wrong side of the road, not the weather, not the food, not the accents - it was how people are treated at their jobs.


Even in Canada though, Dental is pretty much tied to your job. It's not as significant, but I've only ever had legitimate dental coverage during school and for 3 months over the course of a decade.


So move to a country where even Dental isn't tied to your job!


I'm working on it alright! Although technically it's not tied to your job, just not very affordable unless it's on a company plan. I figure this is the common definition of "tied to job", because I can't imagine a system that provides exclusive access to dental insurance to employers only.


Have a look at my 2nd earliest submission about full employment and the consequences it would bring, it's pretty refreshing reading.


I read a horrifying description by a American of their employment and health insurance situation.

Some details I don't understand, and I may be misremembering, but the gist was:

- they were (under?)-employed within their field, at an okay job

- they had health benefits

- they had had a major health condition which caused them to now have a pre-existing condition (cancer? I don't recall.)

- they were now in a situation where-in if they lost their job, or COBRA coverage for 2+ months, they lapsed out of their existing policy

- they would then have to apply for health insurance coverage with a "pre-existing condition" which would not be covered (by the normal policies?)

So now they were very clearly and palpably tied to their health insurance and by extension to the company that employed them, and felt very uneasy about going through the hiring / probation period somewhere else.

I may have the major details wrong there, feel free to correct me if I do.


I haven't had dental insurance for longer than 3 months in my 11 years as an adult because I haven't managed to stay employed longer at a company that would put me on the plan. Actually typing that out evokes a unique sense of sadness that I haven't had in a while.


If you're receptive to that way of thinking, try taking a look into Marxist theories, which incorporate that way of thinking into a political philosophy.


Absolutely true in my opinion. The cost of procuring and administering healthcare is one of the largest non-productive costs to most businesses. Its about retention and control.


There's a similar ugly dynamic at work with H1Bs, particularly in tech.


It's very ugly in graduate schools too, for grad students and postdoctoral researchers who aren't paid much better (salary is maybe 40-50k). In many west coast cities, rents over the past decade have gone up like 60%. Graduate student stipends on the other hand, have heald pretty steady around 30k during that entire time. These are people with a bachelors or even a masters degree, working on things like disease, being paid less from a government grant than a McDonalds worker in Fresno. Oh, but it's "training," so working for less than minimum wage is seen as OK. It also doesn't help that any professor who hears of the 30k stipend goes "Golly, back in my day decades ago when rents were a full order of magnitude lower, I only made half that!" without any realization of the words coming out of their mouth.


I don't think it's true at all that businesses are against universal healthcare. Businesses want very much to have nothing to with providing employee healthcare, thus the opposition to Obamacare.

But if someone offered to take it off their plate, absent proportionately higher taxes, I cannot see any business outcry.


Big businesses with younger, white collar employees certainly gain a competitive advantage by getting a tax benefit for paying people via health insurance subsidies. Their risk pool is healthier, so the healthcare costs are lower, hence premiums are lower. Plus, obfuscated pricing always benefits the seller. The employer can lower the value of the benefit without the employee being able to accurately compare the costs to alternatives.


"Slavery with extra steps" often comes to mind.


It’s slavery as a service. Great for saving costs because you only pay for the time that you actually use, and you can outsource the maintenance of the service to the provider.

If real slavery was still legal it wouldn’t even be used because the paycheque to paycheque employee model is so much more cost efficient.


Yeah, you need to feed, house and give free healthcare to slaves. That's not happening any time soon.


It's coming. "You will own nothing and be happy."


I wonder what it is going to look like when finally every single dollar you have is sucked up automatically by the month. The scales tip by the year. People in major cities are already paying 50% of their wages to their landlord alone. That's a degenerate economy, not a productive one.

Eventually we will reach an equilibrium where there will be just enough vultures out there to eat exactly how many slices there are left in the pie. Complete extraction of 'disposable' income will be achieved this century. For working people in major cities, some are already being completely extracted like this, having to work multiple jobs to keep a roof overhead and bellies fed with no time to do something that isn't low skilled labor for capital.


It is much worse. China is currently testing crypto money that expires after a certain amount of time. Forget saving.


Source on this? Sounds like an interesting, albeit terrifying, read.


I know you mean well, but nothing except literal slavery is slavery, and it's trivializing of enormous injustices to even lightly equate the two.

Chattel slavery involved practically-legal murder, beating, children born into slavery, rape, and a laundry list of horrifying things. This is bad, but we can come up with a term for "oppressive labor conditions" which is not "slavery".


Experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other. There is nothing more common now than the remark that the physical condition of the freedmen of the South is immeasurably worse than in the time of slavery; that in respect to food, clothing and shelter they are wretched, miserable and destitute; that they are worse masters to themselves than their old masters were to them. To add insult to injury, the reproach of their condition is charged upon themselves.

An amazing point getting recognized more and more.


Chattel slavery is only but one kind of slavery.


Now we have people being born into practically eternal poverty and forced to toil constantly under horrible conditions in order to avoid economic punishments.


If only everyone had a choice in where they spend their time and energy. Oh they do.


If only everyone had the money and time to actually make that choice. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, that means you can't afford to move without going into more debt. Moving costs money, even just moving across town. I'm usually out a good 1-2k when I move apartments just in my town after all application fees and deposits have been paid. My last landlord was a management corporation that figured out a way to whittle down my $1800 security deposit from my last apartment to $38 from things like "scratched floors" and "dents," so the deposit is rarely that. If I was broke, moving would be impossible.

If you are broke you are gonna have an impossible time lining up work wherever you are going. No low skilled place is going to hire an out of area candidate when there are local applicants. You will have to show up from say, expensive south central LA to 'cheaper' boise, having spent hundreds of dollars in gas along the way, and now need to put money down on a security deposit. Since your credit is probably bad since you are broke, you will probably have to pay a huge deposit. My very first apartment when I had no credit asked for three months of rent as a deposit. If you are broke you don't have money for gas or these deposits, and will have had to go into debt. So now you are in a new area where you no absolutely no one, with no job, thousands in debt. You might spend the rest of your working life trying to get out of the hole you just dug for yourself, and that's assuming you don't get sick along the way.

It's no wonder why so many people are homeless, and why most of the working poor in cities like LA live in overcrowded apartments rather than "going elsewhere" like wisecrack comments on the internet seem to suggest they do. I don't think people on this board have any concept of how expensive it is to be poor in this country, and this comment is case in point.


It also implies that it's not a consensual agreement with your workplace. If you can figure out how to live your life without working, youre allowed to. Slaves... not so much


I know someone who works for one of the major US pizza chains. He was faced with a similar request. At first, it was just a polite request. Then it became a condition of employment. He rightly did not want a pizza corporation tracking his every move 24x7. His solution was to buy a 2nd phone to be his 'work phone'. Said work phone gets left in the vehicle he delivers pizzas with, and gets turned on and off with the start and end of his shift. His position being that if his employer requires his location data as a condition of employement, then his employer will have only that location data relevant to his duties.

I can understand why a pizza chain or other business that delivers food would want this info. How often has it been that you've ordered a pizza, or Chinese, or tacos, and found yourself wondering, "Where the hell is my food? I'm hungry _now_." With the tracking of delivery persons, you can pull your magic rectangle out of your pocket and see that, oh -- the driver is stuck at that one intersection where the thrice-damned stoplight takes at least 10 minutes to cycle -- the same light constantly camped by traffic cops who issue tickets to everyone who does an illegal turn leave the intersection for an alternate route.

However, not everyone has the means to do what my friend did -- buy a second phone. And people are right to worry about how their off-the-clock location data will be abused and fall into malicious hands.

I suspect we're going to see more and more employers pushing towards mandating location tracking, even ones with less legit business needs than food delivery. I can only hope we'll see pushback against that.


Just think about Uber and Lyft. the core of their business is to track your exact location, so they can route you to the closest pickup. On your personal device, since your a contractor, not an employee.


To be fair, you can change your settings to make sure you only share location data when the app is open... which makes sense for this kind of service.

You also don't even need to allow location at all if you don't want but then adding your pickup location and destination become very difficult (probably designed to be that way).


At my last employer, we were asked to install some kind of authentication app (that wanted permission to access all kinds of files, peripherals, etc on the phone)

I just told them I didn't have a compatible device - it's not so far fetched that people don't have an android or iphone.

In the end they provided a clumsy web based workaround to do the same thing.

Outside of tech, I can imagine many people, like the one in this story, are at a disadvantage because they don't know they can plausibly say they don't have a compatible phone, they don't know how to navigate a complicated workaround, and they may be afraid of losing their job.


> I can imagine many people [...] are at a disadvantage

Yes, power differentials matter a lot. I have quit a job over things I considered overly intrusive, but a lot of people don't have that freedom.

For that matter, I now keep a separate work phone. My employer doesn't require anything I object to, but just keeping all work apps off my phone was one consideration when I got it. But that's a big expense for a lot of people.


I quit a job when after hired they wanted me to use hub staff. I tried for a while, and it is an incredibly hostile piece of software. After some stressful events with it I said: I don't need this s*it and asked to leave.

Mind you, I don't care if a company decides to spy on his workers using tools like Hubstaff, but they should be upfront about it during recruiting so both me and the company don't waste our time.


Like animal sacrifice, worker surveillance is a lever the manager can pull to feel and appear in control.

Okay that's a little harsh. It's more like drilling into someone's skull: it might work, but probably not the reasons you think ("to excise the evil spirits!") and there are almost certainly less harmful, more effective techniques you just don't know about yet.

When we can reliably break Goodhart's Law (metrics that are targets aren't good metrics) maybe we'll outgrow our primitive hiring and performance rituals.

Speaking of, since the metric is now "moves around the building," do security guards and custodians ever carry the other's trackers for a while?

Perhaps there are "custodial red teams" with orders to dirty or disable something and see how long it takes to be restored.


This policy wasn't instituted by the school but by the custodial contractor. Also, these kind of traditional gig jobs are extremely cutthroat. Like I don't even see why the employer would even bother. If the worker didn't do the job the contractee would complain, a new crew would be assigned, and the old crew may get fired or sent to a different site.


>if the worker didn't do the job the contractee would complain, a new crew would be assigned, and the old crew may get fired or sent to a different site.

Yes, that's normally how this works. And that's how this works at the low end.

But when you're the custodial/landscaping/whatever body shop for a school/highfalutin office park/etc. your value ad is in the image. These types of body shops do all sorts of stupid things to basically broadcast the image that they hire the good poors and not the dirty poors. E.g. they'll hand out uniforms with collars, only hire people who speak English and are free of tattoos, etc. etc.

This tracking app BS is just a way for them to add "look, we're accountable, you can track your contractors with an app" to their website so that some Karen with the company card is more likely to call them up and buy their services.

It's not about getting the job done more efficiently. It's about projecting an image to the customer.


I once had a coworker who refused to install a two-factor code generator (such as Google Authenticator, but there a dozens of alternatives) on his personal phone. I told him that he could generate codes any other way he likes, but the personal phone would be easiest.

He wouldn't have lost his job but he wouldn't be able to gain production access, which required two-factor codes.

He grudgingly installed a two-factor app. I'm sympathetic to the idea of "don't make me install stuff on my phone", but when it can be one of several apps, and the sole purpose of the app is retain a cryptographic key and run some hashes on it... I lose most of my sympathy.

I suppose it'd be nice if that employer (I no longer work there) provided a device to generate the two factor codes, but I can understand why they don't.


> but when it can be one of several apps, and the sole purpose of the app is retain a cryptographic key and run some hashes on it... I lose most of my sympathy.

I can't see how having a choice of apps changes anything.

An employer shouldn't be able to demand an employee to use personal property for work purposes against the employee's will. That's unreasonable, unacceptable and ethically wrong in my opinion.


> I suppose it'd be nice if that employer (I no longer work there) provided a device to generate the two factor codes, but I can understand why they don't.

I mean... aren't there quite literally devices whose sole purpose is to generate 2FA codes? Something with a form factor similar to a small keyfob?

I do know these exist but I've personally never seen one "in the flesh". Also I can only imagine these (as a singular solution for all relevant employees) would probably also be easier to administer than a wild growth of different 2FA apps, most likely on different OSs and even different versions of those OSs, while over the years the churn of employees means the variation gets ever larger.


I used to have to carry around an RSA keyfob to be able to deploy code to production! I've had a few of those at different jobs!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSA_SecurID

I've never had a job that required "Google Authenticator" on my personal phone. I guess I stopped working for other people long before that became the main 2fa method. That might be a step too far.


Where I've worked, they will hand out RSA-style tokens that constantly generate new codes if you don't have a phone or don't want to install an app on your personal phone. There are even tokens out there that will totally replace any Authenticator-compatible app since the token is programmable.


> but I can understand why they don't.

And why is that? I don't know of any good reason besides not wanting to spend a trivial amount of money.

I sometimes like to leave my phone at home when I go to work because I want to separate work from personal life. I would probably leave a job that required me to have my phone on me for work.


It's very easy to solve this. Give your dudes a Yubikey and get them to use that. It becomes their responsibility to secure the Yubikey.

Almost everything supports the new ones. And if they don't, use Okta for SSO and Okta supports that.


I find this totally reasonable, especially since you can pick what app you want to install, and _it's actually useful for stuff outside of work_.

For example, Okta Verify or Duo I would absolutely demand a separate phone for paid for by work - they are remotely monitorable/controllable more than local hashing.

But you should be generating TOTP codes for your personal accounts too!


The principle of the issue is requiring personal property for the job when there are well-known, safer alternatives such as the RSA SecureID. What happens if your phone freezes or completely dies? What if an attacker who can access the first factor of authentication can remotely access your phone?

Why risk it?


What happens when your RSA SecurID token dies, the office is closed, no one can provision you a new one unlike a TOTP?


Then work supports it. However great or poor that they do is up to them.

If I let my phone simply run out of battery...

Well, it is my phone. I can if I want to.

If I don't upgrade for 6 years and nothing accepted supports my version of OS...

Well, it is my phone. I can if I want to.

As soon as you make my phone a part of your business, it is no longer my phone.


Your RSA SecureID being the point of failure is much more rare and much more harmless than your phone being the point of failure.


At least with duo you can have it just call a number. No app needed. Which is hillarious to see in a hospital setting. Get duo push from the desktop, the handset installed next to the desktop is often the one to ring. It stops being two factor when you can control both factors with one butt in one seat.


Good for her. My phone, my rules. If a smartphone app is how the company wants to operate, that's fine, but they should provide the hardware.


One of the best moves I've seen a cleaning service company make is provide a pre-paid smartphone to employees (and pay the bill if they worked over 15 hours per week). They had two problems: employees would get their personal phones shut off for non-payment, and they had push back on installing their mobile app. The shut offs were costing the company a lot of money because when they needed an extra person on a shift or someone didn't show up they couldn't reach the employee. Providing a phone also reduced turnover by about 14%.


Why didn't they suggested to chip her, you know like some modern sheep farmers do. The APP dystopia is APPalling.


I believe you're being humorous, but this has come up in the past. One employer in Wisconsin did it to 100 employees (https://trainingindustry.com/articles/learning-technologies/...), though they did not make it a condition of continued employment. Some states have made it illegal.

The explosion of smartphone technology has made chipping an infeasibly expensive solution in comparison; it hasn't dampened employer desire to do things like this.


> Microchips can also reduce health care costs for employers by tracking factors such as sleep duration, blood pressure and activity levels. With this information, microchips can make recommendations on how employees can improve their health, says Dan Lohrmann, chief security officer and chief strategist for Security Mentor, Inc., and author of “Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web.”

What a load of horseshit. How does an implanted RFID tag provide anything but an employee badge that you can't lose?


It doesn't. The authors don't seem to know the difference between an RFID tag and a microchip.


Why not strap an employee monitoring device to her ankle? :)


One of the weird things is how often you are tracked just by the building sensors. Your phone really track you but there are other ways.

In the Isabella Stewart Gardener heist documentary they looked at when the motion sensors where triggered in each part of the museum (this was in the 1990s) to get a sense of how long the thieves were in the building and where they went.

When I worked at a home power monitoring company (monitoring by circuit breaker), we could tell very clearly that no one was home at my bosses house when he was on vacation (his house was one of our test locations). It was a little wierd.

A higher up got was told by their spouse when he noted she was home early and she asked how he knew (he was monitoring the power usage). that he could keep his toys but don't talk to her about it. Someone wondered if they should talk to the dog walker about how the walk was really short on tuesday.. We switched to commercial monitoring thankfully.


So Dr. Strangelove: "You can't have privacy here; this is the land of the free!"

We badly need to find a suitable level of tracking that is less than 100%, or the whole world is a tarted-up game reservation.


Welcome to 5G...


If your employer required this, would you comply?

[Edited from Would Google and Facebook employees comply]


No I wouldn't. But then on this side of the pond I have much better protections in law against this sort of thing. That's both from a data protection point of view, but also from an employment law point of view. I was struck by the part in the article where it says:

'However, Samfiru added, an employer can let an employee go "for pretty much any reason" as long as any severance that is owed is paid out.'

Over here, if an employer imposes unreasonable conditions on an employee, that employee refuses, and the employer fires them because of that, then that's unfair dismissal, and the employee can take the employer to an employment tribunal. The main problem at the tribunal would be proving that the refusal to accept the conditions was the reason for dismissal. When I read that "her refusal to download the app was mentioned in her letter of termination", over here the employee would have the employer over a barrel.

It even goes further here. If an employer imposes unreasonable conditions, and the employee resigns because of them, that's constructive dismissal, and the employee can take the employer to the tribunal just like if the employer fired the employee.


It would depend on my situation. I'm not always in the negotiating position I'd like to be in.

If it was the only way to feed my family and house them in a safe section of town, then probably yes.

If I was in a less desperate situation, then probably no.


You previously asked about Google and Facebook employees.

If you connect your Android phone to your corporate Google account, you will be required to install the corp monitoring software suite, which (among other things) includes both location tracking and nuke-from-orbit features. The company does encourage you to configure your phone properly to keep your private info in a separate non-corp account to minimize undesired data leakage, since the corp side of things is assumed to be observable for security and corporate policy reasons (I can't remember right now if the nuke-from-orbit would wipe the private side of the phone's install also).

You can choose not to do this, though it will probably limit your career prospects in the long run (especially if you're SRE and need a convenient notification solution for when you're on-call). Although, honestly, if one doesn't trust Google's handling of private information, one should probably re-think one's employment relationship with them.

Anecdotally from my own observation, plenty of employees comply because they trust Google's handling of everyone's private info, including their own (and that's even given the understanding that Google's access to one's "private" info when one is working as an employee on corporate tasks can be more open... They won't snoop your personal Gmail account, but they absolutely reserve the right to investigate your corporate one, for example).


> You can choose not to do this, though it will probably limit your career prospects in the long run (especially if you're SRE and need a convenient notification solution for when you're on-call).

If a company wants me to be on-call or do any kind of mobile work, they can give me a phone. I let this slide at one job because it was a unicorn where I actually loved the job, but from then I've been able to get corporate phones and it's been key.


Oh, to be clear: Google will absolutely provide you a phone if you choose not to do this to your personal device.

... but if you're SRE oncall, you'll probably have that phone on you (or at least within hearing distance) at all times when you're on shift. I'd assumed the relevant issue was having a tracking device on your person your employer can access, not whether the employer was footing the bill for the tracking device they encourage you to have on your person.

Again anecdotally: most employees I know just set it up on their personal device. It's more convenient than carrying two devices around when one knows one'll be carrying a smartphone anyway.


I was slightly more alarmed by the "nuke from orbit" than the tracking, though they're both troubling enough. Not that I'm in much danger of working for Google anyway.


Probably worth noting that given the Cloud nature of almost all the Google apps, the opsec model here is that the phone is discardable. Your photos are backed up to Photos. Your mail is mirrored on Gmail. All your docs are in Drive. Your contacts are in Contacts. And so on.

You don't have precious, irretrievable data on that device anyway, because it's a phone (as in, "There's nothing Google's gonna do to your phone that wouldn't happen to it if you dropped it in a toilet, probably don't keep the only copy of your baby's first words on something that fragile").


yes. beyond tracking there is also a spy app on your phone that can likely access personal data.

So, a separate device would save your from that part, at least.


> If you connect your Android phone to your corporate Google account, you will be required to install the corp monitoring software suite, which (among other things) includes both location tracking and nuke-from-orbit features.

My understanding is that on personally-owned Android devices, a work profile cannot specifically track location by itself. A force-installed app on the work profile could, but you can turn off location tracking on the work profile easily[1].

> The company does encourage you to configure your phone properly to keep your private info in a separate non-corp account to minimize undesired data leakage, since the corp side of things is assumed to be observable for security and corporate policy reasons (I can't remember right now if the nuke-from-orbit would wipe the private side of the phone's install also).

On personally-owned Android devices, a remote wipe only wipes the work profile. It doesn't touch the personal profile side[2].

Googler, opinions my own.

1. https://support.google.com/work/android/answer/7029265?hl=en...

2. https://support.google.com/work/android/answer/7502354?hl=en...


Privacy aside, connecting private Google account to the corporate one is sooo extreme move nowadays, for both sides. Google may nuke whole account and everything linked to it without any way to appeal and reverse it. Then unless you happen o have a prominent Twitter account to complain and pray for some Google employee to stumble upon your post you are out of luck.


Companies this size just give you a company phone.


Would it not be possible to have 2 phones - a corporate one and a personal one?


I've worked for a hardware company where our employee badges were tracked throughout the building, you had to badge in and out to go to the bathroom, which could be tracked I guess.

I didn't really have a problem with it, I feel that this sort of non-intrusive tracking is perfectly acceptable when you're on the clock.


It's pretty common around here for firms that don't "face" the customers (a software shop is a perfect example) to install magnet locks with RFID card readers at the office entrance, and give the key cards to the workers (and the office building owners, obviously). Throw in some primitive software to count timestamps of enters/exits, and here's your punch clock for the digital era.


Are they having you swipe when you exit as well?


Yes, there is a reader on the inside too.


Googler here. My opinions are my own.

I would do this if the company provided the hardware and I only had to use the device to do work things during work hours. (As other pointed out Google does in fact provide hardware to employees needing this capability.)

Mandating use on personal hardware is a different story.


I've never been asked to install any apps (nor would I) but we did have the option of giving the company a MAC address for automatic clockin when arriving at the office (this was prior to Covid - we're mostly all remote now). I would've also refused that but I never had anyone pressure me to do it.


If it's a gig job, the better question is, if Uber required this, would you comply? The rest is history...


With Uber, having the company app on your phone is a requirement for accepting the job. So complying is not really an issue.


> Edited from Would Google and Facebook employees comply

This seems very unlikely considering that Google and Facebook are consistently among some of the best companies in the world to work for. There is a big difference between being an employee at those companies and being a user of their products.


No


It’s a little more reasonable if they’re doing it for security reasons rather than tracking my productivity.


I don't have a personal phone, so I would be unable to comply.


No way, I don't even check work email on my personal device


I've been explicitly told not to do this, because it means my computer could be taken as evidence in a court case or (as a government employee) an open records request.


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