Stavos/flickr

Stavos/flickr

GPS tracking has gained popularity in the delivery of products and services by increasing transparency for both consumers and employers. However, this constant monitoring has raised serious concerns about worker privacy.

Goods, services, and employee tracking via GPS is on the rise across many sectors. [tweetable alt=”From @Uber cars to @dominos pizza, companies are using tracing #apps to monitor worker performance, says @WSJ.” hashtag=””]Whether it’s Amazon shipments, incoming Uber cars, or Domino’s pizza, companies are eager to implement tracing capabilities in order to expand their online presence and monitor worker performance,[/tweetable] as the Wall Street Journal reports.

GPS technologies gained popularity as they became smaller and cheaper, making them more accessible to mainstream businesses. What was once a convenience employers could only dream of has now become a widespread practice.

And now, tracking services like those offered by Xora have developed more capabilities than simply telling you where an object is.

According to the Wall Street Journal: “telematics goes beyond GPS tracking, which was pioneered by the trucking and logistics industries decades ago; now, the latest software can… decelerate a truck if a driver fails to take action.”

But, one has to wonder: when does keeping an eye on employees cross the line into inappropriate surveillance?

Uses for GPS Monitoring

Consumers love tracking options because they can confirm the location of their shipment in real time. This increases knowledge-based satisfaction, eliminating the anxiety one might feel about about when a much-needed product will arrive.

Employees also benefit from GPS, especially if they’re out in the field. Headquarters, aware of their location and status, is able to dispatch immediate directions, decreasing idle time. Workers also receive immediate feedback, improving their ability to think and act proactively.

[tweetable alt=”#Employees tend to goof off less when they know they’re being watched by tracking #apps, says @SantaClaraUniv.” hashtag=””]Employers tend to utilize GPS as a deterrent against malpractices — employees tend to goof off less when they know they’re being watched,[/tweetable] as Santa Clara University reports. Unproductive or risky behaviors, such as personal use of a company car or unsafe driving, decrease when an employee is aware of GPS monitoring.

A truly win-win situation — or so it seems.

Limitations of GPS Monitoring

Lydia/flickr

Lydia/flickr

Since GPS can be installed into company cars and company-issued or personal phones to track employee speed, route, efficiency, and unsafe driving maneuvers, some workers consider these trackers a breach of their privacy.

In a recent lawsuit, a former employee of the money remittance service Intermex alleges that her employers forced her to download a tracking app which they then used to remotely track her movements on and off the clock.

CBC News reports the “employer admitted to monitoring off-duty employees and bragged that he knew how fast she was driving at specific moments.”

Even if this information is used for reporting purposes, it is important to appropriately inform the employee about where, when, and why they’re being monitored. Tracking an employee off the clock is an inappropriate abuse of power that should be avoided at all costs because it encroaches on a worker’s privacy and can cause morale to plummet.

When It’s Better to Leave them Behind

nolnet/flickr

nolnet/flickr

Using tracking services necessitates an explicit and specific privacy policy in order to bring both the employer and employee to an understanding that leaves both parties satisfied.

Once management has been upfront with its staff, an honest discussion should take place, one in which employees can pose any questions they may have. This will go a long way towards building a trustworthy relationship.

Building your own app, rather than relying on ready-made technology, can help you to develop a solution that satisfies everyone’s needs. While this might once have been an unwieldy endeavor, services like Infinite Monkeys now make it possible to develop a company app without any knowledge of coding or programming.

Since companies have the capabilities to keep track of good behavior, they should offer incentives for efficient, safe work, making monitoring a positive experience for both parties. But when a company is unwilling to respect privacy, it’s time to leave GPS tracking behind.