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Workplace surveillance, privacy and distributive justice

Workplace surveillance, privacy and distributive justice,10.1145/572260.572267,ACM Sigcas Computers and Society,Lucas D. Introna

Workplace surveillance, privacy and distributive justice   (Citations: 11)
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Modern technologies are providing unprecedented opportunities for surveillance. In the workplace surveillance technology is being built into the very infrastructure of work. Can the employee legitimately resist this increasingly pervasive net of surveillance? The employers argue that workplace surveillance is essential for security, safety, and productivity in increasingly competitive markets. They argue that they have a right to ensure that they 'get what they pay for', furthermore, that the workplace is a place of 'work' which by its very definition excludes the 'personal' dimension at the core of all privacy claims. Legal developments, especially in the USA, seem to favour such an interpretation. The individual's call for workplace privacy seems illegitimate in a context where the 'personal' is almost excluded by default. In this paper I want to argue that the private/public distinction is not useful in the context of workplace surveillance since it always seems possible to argue that the workplace is always and only 'public'---thereby leaving the employee without resources to defend their claim. Such a position belies the fact that the fundamental claim of workplace privacy is not a claim for some personal space as such but rather a claim for the protection against the inherently political interests in the 'gaze' of the employer. Furthermore, that it is probably impossible, in practice, to separate the public from the private in the flow of everyday work. Thus, it seems that one needs to develop another approach to think through the issues at stake. I will argue that the distribution of privacy rights and transparency (surveillance) rights is rather a matter of organisational justice. I will suggest that we may use theories of justice---in particular the work of Rawls---to develop a framework of distributive justice for distributing privacy and transparency between the collective and the individual in a way that is fair. I will contend that such an approach will provide the employee with resources to defend their legitimate claim to workplace privacy.
Journal: ACM Sigcas Computers and Society , vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 33-39, 2000
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