Forget Big Brother, Big Boss is here right now

Metaratings
15 May 2015
00:00
Article

As featured in DisruptiveViews

It was bound to happen. An employee in the USA is suing her employer after being fired for uninstalling an app on her company iPhone that tracked her whereabouts 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.

ArsTechnica reports that the plaintiff, Myrna Arias, a former Bakersfield sales executive for money transfer service Intermex, claims in a state court lawsuit that her boss, John Stubits, fired her shortly after she uninstalled the job-management Xora app that she and her colleagues were required to use.

It’s one thing for an employer to want to track staff during their working hours but who would want to be monitored constantly and for what purpose? It seems that her boss felt she should tolerate the ‘intrusion’ because she was being paid more than her previous job and was required to be accessible 24×7 to answer phone calls from clients. You can understand Myrna’s concerns, especially after reading the suit:

“After researching the app and speaking with a trainer from Xora, Plaintiff and her co-workers asked whether Intermex would be monitoring their movements while off duty. Stubits admitted that employees would be monitored while off duty and bragged that he knew how fast she was driving at specific moments ever since she installed the app on her phone. Plaintiff expressed that she had no problem with the app’s GPS function during work hours, but she objected to the monitoring of her location during non-work hours and complained to Stubits that this was an invasion of her privacy. She likened the app to a prisoner’s ankle bracelet and informed Stubits that his actions were illegal. Stubits replied that she should tolerate the illegal intrusion…..”

The suit, which claims invasion of privacy, retaliation, unfair business practices, and other allegations, seeks damages in excess of $500,000 and asserts she was monitored on the weekends when she was not working.

In what will surely become a test case as further questions will be raised about just how much personal data can be collected by anyone, with or without the knowledge of the person the data belongs to. For an employer to make it a mandatory condition of employment, and then abuse it, is one thing – for app makers, network operators and digital service providers to do it without your knowledge, quite another.

Whilst Ms Ayrias may have known that the app was being used to monitor her location during work hours she assumed that the surveillance would stop after she stopped work, She was wrong and her boss, Mr Stubits, was way out of line discussing her driving habits and where she had been outside of working hours.

I’m no lawyer but would have to say Ms Ayrias has a pretty good leg to stand on, but if she wins her case the judge hearing it could set off a chain of events that will reverberate throughout the digital ecosystem and that could work against her.

Whether you inadvertently give permission for anyone to collect your personal data, knowingly or unknowingly, is it acceptable or legal for them to do so? I refer here to the small type ‘terms and conditions’ attached to every app and service you subscribe to. How often do you read them?

This is a case to watch. If you thought the NSA and Big Brother were all you had to worry about, think again. It looks like Big Boss could be a bigger threat. Have you checked your company apps lately?

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