Research in Motion: the surveillance workplace

Research in Motion: the surveillance workplace

Summary: After reading the article over on Neowin, via ZDNet Australia, about the chief information officer of Research in Motion, the company which makes the BlackBerry device, recording absolutely every communication within the corporation, this shocked and stunned me.We, the students, as the next generation of IT users, are already in a state of disarray when it comes to the surveillance state, with cameras and devices monitoring our movements and tracking us through the street.

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After reading the article over on Neowin, via ZDNet Australia, about the chief information officer of Research in Motion, the company which makes the BlackBerry device, recording absolutely every communication within the corporation, this shocked and stunned me.

We, the students, as the next generation of IT users, are already in a state of disarray when it comes to the surveillance state, with cameras and devices monitoring our movements and tracking us through the street.

Is the surveillance workplace the next step forward, or if anything, is it a giant step back?

Robin Bienfait, the CIO of RIM, said "that every type of communication whether it be private call, e-mails, or text messages, made by employees of RIM, is recorded and documented." There is, of course, a way around this by bringing in a personal device to make personal phone calls, text messages and emails, but there are two distinct perspectives to take.

The business perspective: where according to the ZDNet article:

"They're doing business inside of RIM. Everything they can say or do can be patented... We're not violating anybody's privacy. They're aware that their information is transparent and in visibility."

The company does rely on intellectual property as the company holds a massive mobile device marketshare, and with everyone foaming at the mouth of the thought of owning a BlackBerry, they have to keep their secrets to themselves. Pre-release devices and beta products could easily go walkabout, and having the breaches contained is surely an important aspect for business.

The privacy perspective makes me wonder if this is something widespread or contained within Research in Motion. How are people expected to work together and trust each other, when it's clear from the amount of surveillance from the company they work for, is so widespread?

This genuinely worries me to think as the next generation of work employees, would we have to prepare ourselves to not only live in a culture where the authorities, security services and governments track our movements, but also work in one.

Are Research in Motion doing the right thing? Would you go and work for a company or organisation which carried out this practice? Am I going completely off my nut? TalkBack and speak your thoughts.

Topics: Hardware, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Government, Government US, Legal, Mobility, BlackBerry, Security

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10 comments
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  • it's their right

    It's RIM's right to do all this, but only if it
    is all disclosed prior to taking the job.

    I completely agree with the company email being
    saved, but anything else would creep me out.
    coffeeshark
    • I disagree.....

      Not sure how the law goes on that, but my take is if you work for someone and you are using their property then you should not expect any level of privacy on those devices or systems. If you don't like it move on to somewhere else, but this day in age its a sad truth of what has to happen to protect yourself or company. Trust is abused all the time and sometimes you just have to take action before it is too late. Better safe than sorry is how I feel on this. Call me crazy or whatever, but I am sure if it was your company you would maybe have different feelings about protecting your IP and your network. Alot of people just suck these days and they have no morals or ability to follow policy, and its kind of pathetic that we have come to the point of what RIM has to do. Responsibility is a legacy idea that is stripped more and more from the fabric of society. Just my take.
      OhTheHumanity
  • Separation

    My employer has a simple policy: thanks to rules regarding civil discovery in the USA, they archive all electronic mail sent via company systems. That ain't cheap, and they'd rather not.

    Therefore, please use private accounts (gmail, whatever) for personal business. Likewise, please use personal mobile phones for personal business -- it's not that the calls cost, but best to keep a clear line.

    For similar reasons, I don't sync my personal calendar to the company calendar. It's a minor bother, but there's really no reason why my co-workers need to know about the hot date I have scheduled for this weekend.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Then step up to the plate, Zak

    and ensure that [i]your[/i] generation is not filled with theives and lawyers, as is the current generation.

    Ensure that companies have no need for cameras and other types of survalience. Ensure that you are not a generation of thieves, ensure that your generation does not turn a blind eye from your co-worker's theft of property or intellectual property: do the right thing!

    In today's world, if a cashier is "caught" stealing via register receipts, the lawyers are the first ones on the scene if you have no hard, physical proff of who is actually taking the money when the cashier is let go.

    As long as there are theives and lawyers, cameras are a "surefire" way to prove who shows no regard towards your company and co-worker's well being by stealing from you.
    GuidingLight
  • RE: Research in Motion: the surveillance workplace

    For the employee I don't think its an invasion of privacy because so long as they are aware it is happening but what about the other party on the call. I think that it could violate that persons privacy.
    jfp
    • Then.....

      That person on the other end should sue the employee for putting them in that situation. The employee knows it is monitored and should reveal that info at the beginning of the call. Place the responsibility with the caller and not the company providing the infrastructure to complete the call which the employee knows is monitored. That simple, follow policy and you won't have any issues. Work is not the place for ultimate freedom and if you think that you are sadly mistaken and the law backs that up in most cases.
      OhTheHumanity
  • RE: Research in Motion: the surveillance workplace

    A company that doesn't trust it's employees can only exist as a dictator style organisation that uses fear to keep the lowly work slaves in line and cultivates workers that inform on their co-workers or are willing to do dirty little tasks to gain favour for their perceived masters. Cronyism and Nepotism will grow, and you will get a mediocre blend of the desperate worker who just needs an income with naive newbies that will either be fast tracted to management if they are sick enough to enjoy a vile work environment or end up in the pile of a faceless horde of drones.


    I have worked temporarily for companies like that. They can last a long time in the market but they have to be in a industry where innovation isn't really as important as brute force work. Factories can be run like this as it doesn't really require any imagination to put a part in a box and send it to the warehouse. A tech company that absolutely must come up with the next biggest thing won't last long with a draconian work environment. The cream of the crop just figures out the place sucks and goes to work for the competition.
    mr1972
    • How much should a company suffer

      The reasons they are there are usually because of prior loss of property.

      How much, or long, should a company suffer those continued loses before they need to resort to this type security?
      GuidingLight
  • The other side

    of this coin is the burden it places on resources. To monitor an employee has a cost associated with it. Those placed in a position of having to conduct such monitoring resent both the employer for asking and the employee for forcing such a waste of time. IT people really do have much better things to do.
    DemonX
  • RE: Research in Motion: the surveillance workplace

    The same surveillance also happens in banks, including a Fortune 500 US bank I last worked in. From time to time, the IT department gets requests to restore somebody's mailbox or telephone recordings because he / she is under investigation.
    Adeline Sim