The Haught guide to Big Brother watching you

If you haven’t set up a system East German style surveillance in your office, you’re derelict in your duty as a capitalist.

If I had to name the two things that have got me to where I am today it would be:

  1. Stupendous talent
  2. Unyielding and repressive scrutiny from my superiors

I’m not afraid to admit it: I loved being surveilled at work. Without Big Brother having watched my every professional movement from one of his infinite telescreens, I would have frittered away my career to date on inefficient activity and unorthodox thoughts.

So last year, when I read that the UK’s Daily Telegraph had got in trouble for installing devices called OccupEyes at staff members’ desks without telling anyone it was happening, I scoffed.

OccupEyes monitor whether employees are occupying their workspaces or not and Telegraph journos, as well as the union, kicked up a stink. The people in charge quickly removed the bulky black sensors but the damage had been done.

You have to assume that the Telegraph bosses were tugging at their collars and darting their eyes as they tried to placate angry employees by explaining that the gadgets were part of an “environmental sustainability” measure. This from a company that has routinely mocked the validity of human-made climate change.

But why should the Telegraph have been so sheepish about their desire to carefully record the position of their workers’ bottoms throughout the day? Every right-thinking man, woman and corporation has the right to engage in cartoonish doublethink and, if a newspaper – or any 21st century organisation for that matter – dedicated to liberalism, laissez-faire economics and conservatism wants to set up an authoritarian communist regime in their office, why shouldn’t they?

We should ever let an individual’s right to privacy and freedom get in the way of productivity.


An edited version of this article first appeared in the MyCareer section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

You can read the column – Benign to Five – in those papers every Saturday, and if you miss it, you can look it up online in the Workplace section of The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, WAToday and Brisbane Times. (I now wankishly call myself a “syndicated columnist” on my CV.)

Read more Haught newspaper columns

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