LoJack, introduced in the ‘80s and conceived as a way of tracking stolen cars, was a leap forward in technology. Today, with the advent of GPS, tracking people as well as vehicles, is commonplace. This geographical locator ability is beneficial when pursuing criminals, but more than disturbing when used to monitor the daily activities of ordinary citizens.
This morning I had a visit from my sprinkler man Luis who after completing his work asked me for the time. I responded that it was approximately 10:20. He asked if I could be more exact as to the time as the company he has worked for for more than 20 years had installed a tracking device in all their landscaping trucks, including his, to monitor his efficiency and real-time locations.
He was uneasy, maybe even insulted, definitely disillusioned by his company’s decision to monitor his activities hour to hour. He had been a loyal employee and has helped the company grow from a family-oriented business to the largest company servicing that area. In the process, it seems that the company had become “corporate” in orientation and disconnected from its employees. Gone was the sense of loyalty and mutual respect, particularly for senior staff who had invested years with the company and may have felt they were “family” as well as employees. Now, close to retirement, Luis feels as if he were no different than a random new hire on probation.
This feeling of Big Brother watching is not limited to employees. Our locations are registered each time we traverse EZ pass lanes, take money from an ATM machine, or simply cross Times Square. Ironically, whereas previously we fought for the right to privacy, today there are those who voluntarily provide their location and activities at all times through GooglePlus; Foursquare, and their future location through the Forecast app.
George Orwell’s predictions were ahead of his time, but it seems we finally caught up.