Friday, May 21, 2010


Cameras were installed in our office a few days ago. "Oh, brother...," groaned L.

"Big brother," I corrected him while trying to make sense of the situation that left me feeling violated.

Marilena had a different opinion. "At least now they'll know who does the work around here!" I made a mental note to put her on my black list in the category reserved for rats, snitches and people never to trust.

Magically, it was at this point that our boss dropped anchor from his ivory tower. "So what's the camera for?" asked L.


"Strange place to put it," I said, fingering the one shooting directly onto my computer screen. "Shouldn't it be pointing to the windows? Unless of course, I'm the suspect."

"Does it bother you?" he asked. "Don't worry. It's just for security. In a few days you won't even know its here."

"That's exactly what bothers me," I said. "The thought that I may get used to it, consider it natural even, bothers me more than its actual presence."

He raised his eyes to the ceiling. "If we really wanted to spy on you, we'd use other methods that are not so obvious. There are systems we can place to track everything you do, and according to these devices its amazing what employees get up to during work time." (He gave me a meaningful glance...I wonder if he knows about this blog.)

Thankfully I wasn't the only one bothered and by the end of the day he promised to remove the cameras. But they're still up there, hovering over our shoulders. And I'm doing my best NOT to get used to them.

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four"


Robin said...

It does make you wonder.

I read that book in high school and it freaked me out. Technology is a double-edged sword. Always has been, always will be.

Ro Magnolia said...

Yikes! As if work isn't already a stressful environment, now you get to worry about being watched constantly. Gives me shivers just thinking about it. It's one thing to monitor exits and entrances (or as you pointed out, windows) for security reasons, but why do they need a camera focused right on your desk/computer? Sounds freaky to me.

Sandy, Sisters of Season said...

What's up with that . . why would anyone want to work in a place like that. That's the worst thing you can do with your employees . . all of a sudden everyone becomes a robot with no creativity in their work, it actually limits the employees, how foolish of them, sorry to hear that Mary . . better days.

Purple Cow said...

Actually so far it has been a great place to work...But when I saw the cameras, the thought of resignation did cross my mind.

They said they'd take them down.

Let's see.

george said...

"It's just for your security." ranks with the pre-punishment disclaimer: "This will hurt me more than it hurts you." as shabby excuses for the exercise of power.

You could, of course, exploit the situation: glancing furtively over your shoulder before slipping some random sheet of paper into your bag; cupping your hand as you talk on the telephone; whispering to a colleague whilst staring at the camera.

Seriously though, I have never heard of this kind of surveillance in an office environment.
How, exactly, is it for your security?

Purple Cow said...

George, I work in one of those rare for Greece office environments with lots of high tech equipment and state of the art facilities. We have special keys to special doors and not everyone has all the keys to all the doors and all the codes to all the places... If I was a terrorist I'd probably bomb us... I never thought they'd stoop to cameras in the offices. Still haven't taken them down, by the way.

And yes, I am making funny faces and rude gestures to them all the time. Though, mind you, today was a Greek school holiday and I took my kids to work and told them to be good cause there were cameras watching...worked wonders for discipline... Maybe I could put them up at home. Heck, I wonder if I can have the video. Never saw my kids so well behaved before.

Phoenix said...

Ew. Do not like this one bit.

Interesting thing about technology these days... (and this is why I'm still obsessed with books via e-books) is that Amazon's Kindle realized that they had sold a book that they didn't have the rights to so they yanked it off every single buyer's Kindle without any permission - a very slippery slope when it comes to being able to use e-book technology to start censoring which books are allowed and which aren't.

The most ironic part? The book that Kindle yanked - yep, you guessed it. George Orwell's "1984".

Scary times these days...

Purple Cow said...

Hmmmm Phoenix. A very symbolic choice.

George said...


Have just remembered: I once read a book (The...something...Tapes)about a man who, suspecting his wife of infidelity, secretly installed hidden cameras in all the rooms of the house.
Turned out, there was nothing going on. But he ended up having an affair with the woman who owned the surveillance company.

I'm not going to look for a moral here, because I don't like them.