Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Big Brother Arrived Where I Work

I knew it had to happen some day and that day has arrived where I work. The corporation has installed security cameras in five known locations and who knows how many other ones. These camera systems are not your run of the mill, tape recorded, black and white, convienence store type. These are state of the art computer based.

Understandable they were installed to prevent theft. I work at a corporate bakery with locations around the country, a retail business. The company has had enough incidents of theft to justify the cameras. And some of those thefts have been done by employees as well as the outside thieves. Yet as a worker who has nothing to do with the cash registers I can't help but feel big brother watching over me.

In a meeting the other day management explained some aspects of the system. For instance they can toy with the computer recorded image to "see the whites of the eyes" of anyone in camera range. I work the night shift and they explained that the cameras can be accessed at any time remotely using a laptop and have the capacity of multicamera split screening. As they put it, "we can access at three in the morning if we want" but quickly added "and throughout the day to watch customers."

The problem with this type of big brother activity is that no one points to those that do the watching. It is just assumed that they have good intentions of protecting the corporation. I have to wonder as I work at night if someone is at home on their laptop tuning in to my images for mere entertainment. I have to wonder as they capture pictures of me what they might later do with those images. Some day could I come across pictures of me on some website accompanied by some humorous caption? There are strange people all over this world, how do I know that the laptop viewer is not getting their jollies off on watching me.

The possibilities of abusing this imaging power over me has many unknown future prospects. I have no control over these images of myself. Those pictures are not mine, they are owned by the corporation. My initial gut reaction is to each day give the finger to every camera before I start my day, but more than likely they would call that grounds for dismissal.

The corporation I work for has a huge laundry list of no-nos. Don't do this, don't do that, the list is too long to memorize. They can write me up for this thing, fire me for that thing. Many of the things are quite mundane, some employees can't let a tattoo be exposed to the public for instance, I think that's a write-up. I wonder if I might end up with a surprise write-up for violating some little stupid thing, "see, here's the pictures, recorded you last week."

The book 1984 by George Orwell where the term big brother came from was about the government being the intrusive watcher. The fact is that in the 21st century it is the corporation that plays the role of big brother. Somebody is probably watching you, particularily if you work for the corporation.


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