Cheap employee-tracking service launched

MobileLocate, which already offers a service to allow parents to track their children via mobile phone signals, have launched a new service to allow companies to track the positions of their employees

Having your boss know where you are every minute of the working day is most employees' worst fear -- and one company is offering bosses the chance to do just that for less than £1 per phone per month.

MobileLocate has launched the tracking service to enable businesses to track workers in the field via their mobile phones, with locations either displayed on a map via the user's PC or texted to a nominated mobile.

The service will be available on Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and 02 and costs under £1 per month per phone. MobileLocate also runs the recently launched ChildLocate, a similar service aimed at parents who want to find out where their children are.

MobileLocate MD Jon Magnusson said the service can be used in two ways: "Small and medium-sized companies... can check staff are attending jobs and compare their timesheets [for example]. We've also started to see companies and institutions using it to try and locate phones and PDAs."

It's an area of technology tracking that Magnusson expects to grow with the widespread use of smart phones, mobiles and PDAs for teleworkers to help businesses recover expensive hardware as well as the often valuable data they hold.

With the birth of several similar services, some staff may be concerned, either due to privacy fears or worries their work patterns may be uncovered - Stephen Hurcom, European MD for fellow staff-tracking service Autodesk Location Services said: "Monitoring means you can check someone isn't sitting in a lay-by reading the paper for two hours."

Mobile operators and tracking providers have got together to create a Code of Practice for the use of locating services -- staff can't be tracked without their knowledge and have to consent to the tracking.

"My feeling is that it's like any new service -- people are concerned. It's like when we first had the issue of the content of emails being tracked... people were concerned it was Big Brother," said Magnusson, adding that tracking companies have to prove staff have consented to be tracked.

"At the end of the day, you can turn your phone off [if you don't want your bosses to track you]", Magnusson said.