Social Spy Software

29 Sep 2011

A new GMB report on surveillance in the workplace shows that employers can now use software that scans the publicly available information on the internet to check where applicants for jobs have information that can stop them getting the job. The report reveals that in America for 5% to 20% of job applicants have something negative out there in cyberspace about themselves.

The report shows that employers can use “Social Intelligence Monitoring” to check existing employees who have made critical comments about their colleagues and managers, unacceptable material being accessed or passed on, looking at websites that are not approved, or undertaking what is called “cyber slacking” when they use workplace resources for personal activities.

The report reveals the extent to which employers can harvest an individual’s digital footprint into a usable form. For example, ‘Social Sentry’ ( ) offers a comprehensive service for employers to track any employee across their internet activity, checking if they are disseminating confidential organisation material, or may “engage in any behaviour that could damage a company’s reputation … Social Sentry only tracks information that is already public”.

This new GMB report on ‘From Workplace Watch To Social Spy: Surveillance In (And By) The Workplace’ has been produced by Professor Michael Blakemore and updates the report on surveillance at work which he produced in 2005.

The report shows that there has been a deeper integration and power of surveillance technologies since 2005. In 2005 biometric surveillance was at an early stage, and the volume of potential information about individuals was presenting analytical challenges and required a lot of computing power. Indeed, there were some views that the sheer volume of information, and its distributed nature across many data sources and producers/domains (Phone companies, social Web sites, Internet Service Providers etc.), meant that ‘information overload’ was a protection against the information being used coherently.

That has not been the case, and while the information volumes have increased the computing power and software sophistication have more than matched it, and new and ‘smarter’ technologies are making it easier to develop integrated surveillance across many domains. Surveillance power is keeping ahead of the information volume.

Paul Campbell, GMB Organiser said, “There has been a rapid blurring of the boundaries between the private and the public information and communication channels. Individuals are leaving a massive digital footprint that can be used against them which will remain in cyberspace for ever.

Workplace Watch has developed into a new Social Spy where workers personal lives are more easily tracked than ever before.

There are ramifications if employers can see what workers are saying about them on social network sites and what the sites contain about workers own social and professional activities, personal habits and lifestyle etc.

Employers and employees need to develop protocols for dealing with this vast quantity of information. GMB in this report is giving advice to members as to what to do and not do so that they don’t become a victim of this new ‘Social Spy’ technology.”

For a copy of the report please contact your local GMB office.