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Employee Surveillance: From Outposts to Inboxes

Sep 01, 20053 mins
Identity Management SolutionsPrivacySurveillance

In sociological terms, employee surveillance may one day come to define the modern human condition

In sociological terms, surveillance may one day come to define the modern human condition: the view that we, the people, will be secure only to the extent that we allow ourselves and our public spaces to be collectively, comprehensively observed.

But this special report is emphatically not about that still unsettled social terrain. Instead, complete surveillance is about the well-settled and largely unchallenged right of private employers to enact programs of surveillance and other types of monitoring aimed at safeguarding property, people and information assets; enforcing policies and procedures; and preventing loss. In the workplace, surveillance already defines the human condition.

There are, of course, lingering brush fires of contention regarding the way surveillance is carried out. In July, for example, Anheuser-Busch lost its appeal of a case in which it fired some employees who were observed via hidden camera smoking marijuana in the break room. The ruling didnt contest the brewers right to conduct surveillance, but said that it ought to have informed the employees union that it was doing so. (See Senior Editor Todd Datzs feature, The Hidden Camera, on the human dimensions of surveillance.)

The Anheuser-Busch case gets to the heart of our motive for designing the coverage in this issue as we didto offer practical, useful, actionable guidance that is based in reality and experience rather than in unresolvable controversy. Like any security initiative, there are a right way and a wrong way to execute a program of surveillance and monitoring. Execution is decisively important to success, so we have built our coverage around some of the make-or-break factors: pre-implementation justification (ROI studies); employee-relations issues (training, clear and honest communication); economics (sensibly scaled investments in technologies and infrastructure, with an eye open to the added business value surveillance might bring); and finally, the importance of an overarching strategic framework for creating and managing surveillance.

Our lineup also includes two revealing case studies: Senior Editor Sarah D. Scalets look at New Jersey Transits new Secaucus Junction station, designed with surveillance in mind, and Senior Editor Scott Berinatos profile of a five-year process that semiconductor maker Intel went through to establish a positive ROI for new surveillance technology. Contributing writer Lauren Gibbons Paul covers the data-monitoring end of the equation. And we round out our coverage with original CSO research into surveillance trends and practices. There are also some Web-only resources you will want to check out at

We have defined this topic broadly enough to include surveillance (or monitoring) of corporate data assets and networks as well as of physical spaces and tangible property. Thus, weve considered not just cameras but also RFID and GPS technologies along with the sorts of tools that monitor e-mail, network and information usage. Derived from a French word that means to watch over, surveillance is literally oversight. Any CEO understands that oversight is a strategic business responsibility that needs to be carried out in a well-coordinated way. As this magazine has consistently advocated regarding all security programs, surveillance is governed best and most efficiently as a set of converged activities. And yet our survey indicates that there is, at best, inconsistent policy formulation across the physical and information security domains. We hope that will change, and that this issue of CSO provides some inspiration to that end!

Please let us know what you think of the results.