Locating employees any time, any where

Technology lets U.K. employers track employees using cell phone signals

Employers in the United Kingdom now have the option of locating employees anywhere in the country by tracing cell phone signals.

The technology works by tracing the cell phone’s signal to the nearest cell phone mast. In most cases, managers can locate an employee within 200 to 400 metres in just 10 to 15 seconds, reports The Scotsman newspaper.

The basic package for one such provider, MobileLocate, costs £5 a month for up to five cell phone numbers and each request costs 17p.

Workers have to agree for their location to be disclosed at first but are not notified when future requests for location are made, though they do receive periodic text message reminders that the employer has the ability to locate them.

The system does not work if the phone is switched off, although one network can pinpoint the area where the phone was last on.

“If you think about it, any factory in the UK has a system of clocking-in to enable managers to ensure workers are turning up on time. Why shouldn’t you do it when someone who works elsewhere,” said Jon Magnusson, managing director of Guildford-based MobileLocate.

He also claimed the system can benefit workers. “If a guy is driving, you don’t want to be phoning him to find out where he is because it could be dangerous,” he said.
“There is also the time factor. If you have a call-out and you want to find the nearest person to the job, you don’t have to ring around everyone to find out where they are.”

Aware that some people will find the tracking systems an invasion of privacy, several of the service providers have got together to create a code of practice for locating services, which is why staff can’t be tracked without their knowledge and have to consent to the tracking, reports Silicone.com, a British technology news site.

“My feeling is that it's like any new service — people are concerned,” said Magnusson. “It's like when we first had the issue of the content of emails being tracked... people were concerned it was Big Brother." But employees have the option of just turning the phone off if they don’t want their managers to find them, he said.

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