chapter  13
12 Pages

Employee Surveillance

ByDavid Christie

Introduction Information and communications technology can be a great enabler of human rights. It allows ideas and opinions to travel almost instantaneously across digital networks to every corner of the planet. At the same time, it weakens the ability of states and organisations to control the spread of information. It is at least arguable that, thanks to modern communications technology, there has never been a time in human history when we have enjoyed so much freedom of thought and expression.

In this sense, it can be used to undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms. This idea was brilliantly depicted by George Orwell in his novel, 1984, where advances in communications technology were used to keep an entire society under constant surveillance. Orwell’s novel was primarily concerned with surveillance by the state but, in our own world, it is not just surveillance by government and law enforcement agencies that poses a threat to our liberty. Surveillance by our employers may also intrude on communications that we would rather keep private.