Listening devices may be the stuff of espionage and spies, but as recent stories in the press show, more employers are using listening devices to spy on their staff. A story in the Guardian newspaper highlighted the issue of listening devices in the workplace when it reported on a German phone giant that admitted it spied on its staff. The telecommunications operator is Europe’s largest – Deutsche Telekom hired a surveillance firm to use listening devices to spy on employees’ phone calls.
Listening Devices – Spying on Staff
The company said they used listening devices to monitor staff calls to journalists to try and identify the source of a series of leaks to the media. The chief executive of the company expressed concern at the report that listening devices were used and insisted senior executives were unaware of the monitoring. Listening devices were used to track several hundred thousand telephone connections the Guardian reports. But the use of listening devices on such a wide scale is under investigation as there are fears the monitoring could have shaken consumer confidence in the service.
Listening Devices used by Employers
Listening devices are increasingly used in Europe, and especially in the UK which has already been dubbed the most spied upon country in the world. Using listening devices in such a way raises issues of privacy and human rights and the telecoms case is under scrutiny by the Ethics Board of German Industry. Although this particular scale and use of listening devices is unprecedented in Europe, the use of listening devices and telephone monitoring is now widespread. New anti-terrorist legislation means the telecommunications company for example is obliged to save records of all customers for six months. But using listening devices to mole out a leak is morally questionable.
The Walls have Ears: Listening Devices and Surveillance
Spying on the workplace however is increasingly common. Supermarket chain Lidl has said they spied on their employees to monitor toilet break frequency – they even monitored who their staff socialised with outside the workplace using listening devices and spy equipment. In the UK, the government is looking into new legislation to increase the scope of government agencies to access communications data pertaining to British citizens, including accessing records of all UK residents’ e-mail activity and internet use.
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