Big brother breaks down trust

Sep 26 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Writing in the Guardian on Saturday, Ian Wylie argued that the bonds of trust between employers and their staff in British and American workplaces are being broken down by the insidious rise of surveillance and by employers who "are free to invade our privacy at will".

There is no point asking if your employer is watching you. Take that as a given. Anyone in your IT department will tell you that sending an email is no different to sending a postcard. The real issue is trust. Can I trust my employer to watch me for my benefit?

According to Carsten Sorensen, a lecturer in information systems at the London School of Economics and author of The Future Role of Trust in Work, the technologies that protect us are the very same bits of plastic and software that can be used against us.

"The same technology that helps us create virtual organisations across time zones can also be used by old-style command and control bosses to micro-manage us," he says.

Sorensen also believes it is time employers and workers' representatives had a proper debate about privacy and trust

He points to Microsoft, where managing director Alastair Baker says he is happy that the head office car park in Reading, Berkshire, is empty most Friday afternoons. Why? Because he says he trusts that his staff are either out with customers or looking after their work-life balance - and because he knows the company has processes that cultivate and protect that trust.

The Guardian | Crisis of faith