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Communications of the ACM


The Fine Line Between Coercion and Care

worker monitoring a wall full of screens

Credit: Andrey Popov

Employee monitoring is an age-old practice in industrial society, harking back to manual timesheets. It has since developed in line with technology breakthroughs into a highly sophisticated process that is actively practiced by employers, and not always welcomed by employees.

Multinational professional services firm Deloitte notes the prevalence of employee monitoring in a 2018 Global Human Capital Trends article ("People data: How far is too far?") authored by the consultancy's human capital leaders. The article states, "Use of workforce data to analyze, predict, and help improve performance has exploded over the last few years. But as organizations start to use people data in earnest, new risks as well as opportunities are taking shape." The opportunities include collecting employee data to address issues such as productivity and employee engagement to make better business decisions. The risks include breaching data privacy and alienating employees.


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