Tracking of employees in Dubai raises privacy concerns

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Tracking of employees in Dubai raises privacy concerns

Firms can track them with their knowledge, on site, during work hours, says lawyer

By Sajila Saseendran – Senior Reporter

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Published: Fri 20 Feb 2015, 11:47 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:27 PM

A screen grab of a tracking monitor used by a Dubai firm.- Supplied photo

A screen grab of a tracking monitor used by a Dubai firm.- Supplied photo

Dubai — The news about virtual tracking and monitoring of employees in Dubai has started a debate on the use of technology over trust and the legality of the application.

Khaleej Times on Wednesday reported that private firms in Dubai, from driving schools, to facility management and utility companies, are tracking their employees to fix lapses and prevent cheating at work.

Typically, the ID cards of employees being tracked and monitored are designed with multiple chips like NFC, RFID and QR code for monitoring them through GPS tracking, explained Mohamed Elias, project manager at Global Scan Technologies that offers such applications and devices for companies in Dubai.

Responding to the report, several readers raised concerns about the privacy of the workers and the legality of the practice of tracking them.

Some readers opined that invasion of new technologies was leading to disappearance of trust between employers and employees. They felt machines made by man are finally overtaking humanity.

A reader with facebook profile name Vid’s Bk N posted: “wht abut humans privacy, right’s n who will track boss?” (sic)

Another one, Mohammed Sa’ad Al Bukhsh posted: “I’m pretty sure that’s breaking a number of international laws and goes against a number of ethics.”


Firms justify

However, companies providing such workforce management solutions say an eye on the workers out in the field helps firms boost the performance of employees, enhance their production, save time and money as well as protect the health and safety of workers.

According to Elias, companies, which have realised the potential of this relatively new application of the GPS tracking concept, are benefiting from them. “We could see 20 to 30 per cent increase in their production,” he said.

Saif Aldeen Alsaifi, of Austria-based Grintec company, said workforce monitoring using GPS tracking devices and GIS data helps in better coordination of resource deployment and avoiding duplication of work orders.

Another exhibitor at the 10th the Middle East Geospatial Forum and Dubai Municipality’s GIS & Remote Sensing Annual Scientific Forum held in Dubai this week, Al Saifi said employee-tracking system will reduce misalignments and faults in executing job orders.

“With such solutions, it is easy to send a worker with a special tool or specific skill to one particular site where he is needed. You can also include the vacation data of workers and make replacement as needed. So, it is not about privacy. It is more about organising the whole concept and come up with the optimum solutions,” said Alsaifi.

Most applications are primarily meant to take slackers to task and ensure better workflow. However, Elias said, some mobile applications are helping to ensure health and safety of workers, as well.

“There are certain fields and processes which need health and safety checkups. Health and safety engineers have to be physically present in certain areas before labourers start work over there.

“Our mobile application clearly fences the engineer. What time he goes to that area, how long he is there, and when he goes out is recorded. The app sends out a warning if the health and safety engineer is not present. Then we don’t permit the labourers to enter the area,” said Elias.


Legal point

Zayed Al Shamsi, president of the Emirates Association for Lawyers and Legal Consultants told Khaleej Times the local laws do not prohibit companies from using technology to monitor their employees. However, this should be done in public, with the knowledge of the employees and without invading their privacy, he said.

He said the recent laws regarding electronic-crimes in the country have already looked into emerging technical issues like this. “There is no prohibition on the use of technology to monitor workers’ performance. But, companies cannot breach the privacy of the workers and should inform the workers about the system.”

He said tracking and monitoring should be limited to work sites and during work hours. “Even in the case of security cameras, people should know there are cameras and they are being monitored even if they may not be seeing where exactly they are kept in one room. Hiding the cameras and not informing the employees about it will breach the law.”

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