Thursday, October 2, 2008

IBM...Monitoring your every move

Never did the idea of Big Brother become clearer than when I interned with IBM this past summer. There are over 400,000 people working for IBM globally. One would think there would be some sense of anonymity working for a company that large. On the contrary, this corporate giant has found ways to track every move and thought from its employees, often without them knowing.

A friend of mine, a fellow IBM communications intern, worked in Somers, New York this past summer. She was a hard worker and skilled graphic designer. Her manager, however, was notorious for being flakey, unprofessional, and was going through a divorce and brought his emotional problems to the office far too often. My friend often emailed her manager for guidance on certain assignments or would come to his office when he was available. The manager would respond inappropriately, with questions about her personal life or comments about music he would hear that reminded him of her. My friend was quiet and preferred to not make waves and just deleted the emails and quietly worked on her assignments. At the end of the summer, upper communications management contacted her boss about an assignment that had not been completed. He placed the blame on his “irresponsible” intern. My friend stood up to him and said that she had contacted him numerous times about the assignment and his responses were not constructive. Though the emails had been deleted, upper management was able to access the old emails that were embedded in the system and were able to see everything exchanged between the two employees. I was not around to hear the end of the story in August, although I believe there was talk to have the manager fired.

Accessing emails isn’t the only way IBM tracks its employees. Every employee has a badge with a magnetic strip. Every time you enter a building, hallway, cafeteria, printer hub, and often times a bathroom, one must swipe into it, and somewhere there is a huge database collecting the information on every step we take. Another feature on the IBM intranet service is a program called “Blue Pages.” This is a reference guide to contact every employee in the company. It is mandatory upon hire that employees fill out this page to make communication easier. Although I often loved the freedom to reference phone extensions and email addresses quickly, I often felt uncomfortable having a page display my photo, my cubicle location, the hours I worked, and where I went to school. In addition to Blue Pages, IBM has a number of internal social networking sites that are often made mandatory for employees to use. Many of these policies were made to ensure the safety of its employees or to make the flow of communication easier. It doesn’t, however, protect us if there is a bad egg in the company who will abuse this personal information.

No comments: