Surveillance technology is used to monitor individuals’ digital and physical actions and communications. Common forms include data-gathering apps on smartphones, and facial recognition software in smart security camera systems.
Surveillance technology is ostensibly used to improve workplace safety, monitor employee productivity, inform market research, and increase protection for valuable assets. But it can often cross the line, becoming intrusive rather than protective.
Technology used to observe people’s activities or to monitor digital communications.
When used correctly and ethically, it can be a useful tool to increase employee productivity, improve security, and inform market research.
It’s often felt to be a privacy violation, especially when it’s used to monitor employees’ online activity. There’s also a risk of capturing data you don’t need, leading to further privacy and compliance concerns.
Surveillance technology is used across the public and private sectors, usually for security, gathering consumer insights, or monitoring employee productivity.
What is it?
The term ‘surveillance technology’ encompasses any digital device, software or system that gathers information on an individuals’ activities or communications.
Video surveillance is common, and technology advancements mean that audio and images can now be analyzed in greater detail and with greater accuracy.
Today, tools for collecting and sharing data have become a new, nearly imperceptible form of surveillance. Our smartphones, for example, produce and hold huge amounts of personal data — including who we talk to, where we go, our internet browsing history, our social networks, and more. This data can be collected and analyzed to provide insights into consumer behavior or employee activities. But it can also intrude on people’s rights to privacy and could put your enterprise at risk of legal and compliance issues.
What’s in for you?
Surveillance technology is now cheaper and more widely available than ever. And when applied ethically, with high levels of transparency, it can bring big business benefits.
Workplace video surveillance, for example, can provide insights into employee behavior and operations, helping you drive productivity, ensure workplaces are safe, and spot inefficiencies in your processes.
Collecting consumer data can also help you improve nearly every aspect of your business, providing deep insights into your customers’ behavior, the demographics you appeal to, and what exactly they want from your company and its products.
What are the trade offs?
There is a dark side to surveillance technology. It’s everywhere — and as the technology becomes more easily available, it’s difficult to prevent your data from being collected, or your face being saved in an unknown database.
This raises a lot of privacy concerns, threaten civil liberties and increases the risk of blackmail, coercion, or discrimination. There’s no way for individuals to know what data is being collected, where it’s stored, or how it’s being used.
And at the moment, there’s little legislation to protect individuals, because the technology is advancing too fast for regulators to keep up.
An exhaustive legal review on the utilization of surveillance technology is recommended for companies to reduce the risk of compliance issues.
How is it being used?
There are plenty of applications where surveillance technology can benefit businesses. Amazon, for example, has just released a new workplace surveillance tool called AWS Panorama, which analyzes footage from security cameras to monitor workers’ health and safety.
For instance, it can detect when employees aren’t following social distancing rules, and it can offer valuable insights into operational efficiency and the quality of the employee experience.
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