Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Airphone and spying on people at the office

About ten years ago the office I work at decided to be a little less open to the public and a little more distrustful of the employees.  Of course, the part about distrusting the employees isn't stressed; it's all about keeping everyone safe at work.  They've provided a very false sense of security for the employees all the while spying on everyone; the trusted employee and the evil general public. 

All doors to the outside used to be unlocked during the day.  Now, except the front door all the others are kept locked at all times.  We all wear nametags that have magnetic strips that we swipe to open the outside doors.  They installed a gate to close off the back buildings and the back parking areas.  Prior to that it was all open and accessible at all hours of the day and night to anyone who showed up.  Once in the building you could walk into any office.  Individual offices inside the buildings weren't even locked.  If you needed to get something out of someone else’s office you did.  It was never an issue until we were told that we needed to lock things up.  Now about half the people lock their offices and the other half keep the doors open at the end of the day.  There are spare keys to all the offices in the compound located in a closet in one of the offices that isn't kept locked.  The secure offices aren't really secure once someone is in the building if they find the not well hidden key rack. 

At the gate to drive into the back is a keypad to punch in the secret code.  That code hasn't changed in the ten years since they installed the gate.  There are probably hundreds of unauthorized users of the gate because anyone who has ever worked here or any delivery person knows the code.  There is also a spot that you can swipe the magnetic card for the gate to open.  If new delivery person or a visitor shows up and they need to go to the back there is a button to press on the Airphone. 

An Airphone is an intercom system that allows you to talk to the person at the front desk.  There's also a camera up on the gate so it's taking a picture of you as you are talking to the front desk.  This intercom system is also installed at all the outside doors.  Just in case you can't get in you can be buzzed in.  The one thing that people aren't aware of with this Airphone is that the intercom is always on.  You don't have to press the button to activate it. The conversation that is going on near any of these outside speakers automatically is transmitted to the front desk and the upstairs main desk.   This means that people who are outside the back door, where many people take breaks and just sit and gossip, or make personal phone calls, can be listened to without their knowledge. 

If not being able to have private outdoor conversations wasn’t good enough for the spies, I mean department heads, indoor spying was next on their agenda. 

The phone system here just got changed out.  The new phones can be used to spy on employees as well.  If someone from one office presses the conference button and then dials your number, your phone will automatically go to speaker phone and any conversations going on in your office can be overheard by others.  There is no beep or buzz letting you know that your office phone has just turned itself on to speaker phone.  The person doing the spying can set their phone to mute so you’d never know someone was listening.  They sent out an email of how to fix it but most people couldn't figure it out and unless they tested it on one another to make sure it was disabled, it most likely automatically goes to speaker.  Me, I got out the manual for the phone system and disabled just about every high-tech feature it had on it. 

How do I deal with spying?  I have no conversations with anyone by any of the doors.  I will never sit down at the table on the patio to eat lunch or visit with anyone.  I'm friendly enough with the people at the office but they really know very little about me.   It’s not just at my office complex that this is going on.  It’s everywhere you look.  When you go out look around and see how many cameras are pointed toward you.  How many times a day has your photo been taken? How many people are overhearing your conversations? 

1 comment:

  1. My dear old grandmother lived with us. She was stern and believed in punishing all sins big and small. My mother mostly protected us from granny but occassionally she would babysit us. I learned to obey and respect her. My mother gave me some good advice when I was an arrogant teen in high school and got in trouble a few times. She told me to always act as though my grandmother was present. To keep an appearance of being polite and respectful and to be careful of what I said. Simply running my mouth accomplished nothing positive but would probably get me in trouble. She also said that if I got in trouble I could expect that the authorities, whoever they might be, would be very much like my grandmother; very unlikely to be able to see my side of the arguement or to be lenient.

    I liked a silly sign I saw one time that said: be like a duck, calm on the surface but paddling like hell underneath. Don't revel all to strangers or to anyone in public places. Assume everything you say will get back to whoever is most interested. You are the master of the unspoken word but once it is spoken you are it's slave.

    The 21st century of this would seem to be to act as though you are always on camera and voice recording. There is a difference, I believe, between being careful and being devious. Be kind, be honest and be careful. Don't assume anything. Don't do or say things you will regret or be ashamed of. Your grandmother is watching.