Corporate Investors Pour Billions Into ‘Digital Snoops’ to Spy on Workers’ Every Move

For generations, workers have been punished by corporate bosses for watching the clock. But now, the corporate clock is watching workers! They count this as progress.

Called “digital productivity monitoring,” it’s an integrated computer system including a real-time clock, camera, keyboard tracker and algorithms to provide a second-by-second record of what each employee is doing.

Jeff Bezos, boss of Amazon, pioneered the use of this ticking electronic eye in his monstrous warehouses, forcing hapless, low-paid “pickers” to sprint down cavernous stacks of consumer stuff to fill online orders, pronto — beat the clock or be fired.

“Terrific policy!” exclaimed taskmasters at hospital chains, banks, tech giants, newspapers, colleges and other outfits employing millions of midlevel professionals.

So, they’ve been installing these unblinking digital snoops to watch their employees, even timing bathroom breaks and constantly eyeing each worker’s job performance.

New software with such Orwellian names as “WorkSmart” and “Time Doctor” has been plugged in to count workers’ keystrokes and — every 10 minutes — to snap pictures of workers’ faces and screens, recording all on individual scoreboards.

You are paid only for the minutes the computers “see” you in action. Bosses hail the electronic minders as “Fitbits” of productivity, spurring workers to keep noses to the grindstone and instilling workplace honesty.

Only … the whole scheme is dishonest. No employee’s worthiness can be measured in keystrokes and 10-minute snapshots!

What about thinking, conferring with colleagues, listening to customers, etc.? Nope — zero “productivity points” are awarded for that work.

For example, The New York Times reports that the multibillion-dollar United Health Group marks its drug-addiction therapists “idle” if they are conversing offline with patients, leaving their keyboards inactive.

Employees mostly call this digital management “demoralizing,” “toxic” and “just wrong.” But corporate investors are pouring billions into it. Which group do you trust to shape America’s workplace?

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An Opaque Web of Credit Reports Is Tracking Everything You Do

Liam Downey remembers the first time he heard about ChexSystems. It was December 2021, not long after he moved to Mancos, Colorado, a tiny mountain hamlet with a population under 1,500.

The only bank in town had just barred the 52-year-old flight paramedic from opening an account because his so-called ChexSystems score was too low. The teller gave him the contact information of the agency but not much else. He walked out of the bank perplexed.

ChexSystems, as Downey would soon find out, is a national consumer reporting agency — abbreviated CRA — that specializes in gathering data on how Americans use checks and bank accounts. It distills this information into a score similar to a credit score. Some 80% of banks rely on such information to screen people who want to open new accounts.

On a scale of 100 to 899, Downey’s ChexSystems score was 553. As far as the sole bank in Mancos was concerned, those three digits — regardless of his 15-year-long relationship with his current out-of-state bank — meant he was too risky to take on as a customer.

“I think this is complete nonsense,” Downey says of the reporting system. “People don’t even recognize it exists. It’s not easy to interpret, it’s not easy to change, and it’s completely arbitrary.”

Critics of ChexSystems note the agency generally tracks only negative information like account closures and overdrafts, essentially making it a bank-account rap sheet. The company is just one of a large — and largely unknown — sum of CRAs that actively monitors the financial and nonfinancial behavior of more than 200 million Americans, including many children.

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Working From Home Now Means Letting Corporate Surveillance Into Your Daily Life

The covid pandemic event has inspired a generation of workers with false notions about labor, production and work ethics, to the point that it may be a decade or more before people finally return to reality and stop living in fantasy.  

One prominent issue, of course, is the anti-work movement, which essentially believes that no-skill work should be paid a living wage or that such workers should be supplemented by government welfare.  This is the beginning of Universal Basic Income (UBI), which means millions of people dependent on government fiat and maintaining this relationship would become a matter of survival.  You can’t rebel against a corrupt government when you depend on them to feed you and your family.  

The covid stimulus checks acclimated the public to the taste of UBI (not to mention the rent moratoriums) and many of them now have an addiction to living for free.  Large numbers of Americans and Europeans think that this is the way it should be forever, but nothing is for free, kids.  There’s always a cost and a consequence.  

Another issue is the rise of the “work from home movement.” Certainly, there are many technology jobs, media jobs and data analysis jobs that can be accomplished from home and are perhaps better done outside of an office than inside of one.  The advantages are substantial, with reduced traffic in major population centers, psychological relief from the often stifling office environment and potentially improved work output.  Businesses pay for less office space and less supplies also.  It seems like a win-win.

However, there is an agenda afoot which seeks to exploit the work-from-home dynamic and pervert it into something ugly.  And, it is rooted in a growing trend of corporate surveillance of employees in their own houses

Eight out of ten the largest employers in the US already track productivity metrics at the workplace.  This means monitoring software on work computers, surveillance cameras, facial recognition, mood recognition, keystroke records, and even cell phone tracking apps with GPS records.  The argument in favor of this kind of Orwellian all-seeing eye is: “You don’t have to work here if you don’t want to – you can always quit.”  

This is a cop-out response that is designed to circumvent any discussion on the unethical nature of employee monitoring to such an extreme level.  People are being paid, but at the same time they are being treated like property – they are being treated like slaves with no privacy.   And what if every single employer uses employee surveillance?  What if there are no options?  You can quit, but will you be able to find a work environment that doesn’t treat you like this?

This kind of pervasive intrusion is exactly what the work-from-home movement is inviting into their daily lives, as more and more companies are now demanding that employees allow technological surveillance onto the home computers, cell phones and even allow corporations to insert video surveillance into worker houses.

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Advertisers plan to use ‘Dream-Hacking’ to implant branding into your dreams

According to a recent essay published by researchers from Harvard, the University of Montreal and MIT in Aeon Mag, 77 per cent of all marketers and advertisers plan to use “dream-hacking” techniques to begin invading our dreams with advertising within the next three years.

A core topic of the essay was the recent Molson Coors beer marketing campaign, where the company offered free beers to people in exchange for taking part in a “dream incubation study,” as reported by American Craft Beer.

The dream study had participants watch a short marketing video that included talking fish, hypnotic visuals, mountainous landscapes and dancing beer cans, resembling something out of a wild PCP trip.

The beer company also featured One Direction star Zayne Malik live-streaming himself falling asleep watching the video on Instagram earlier this year.

A slippery slope

The scientists say in the Aeon essay that:

We now find ourselves on a very slippery slope. Where we slide to, and at what speed, depends on what actions we choose to take in order to protect our dreams.

They went on further to say that the team of scientists are “also baffled by the lack of public outcry over the mere idea of having our nightly dreams infiltrated, at a grand scale, by corporate advertisers.” Also making reference to what was once “science fiction” now becoming a reality.

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HOW THE NAZIS TEAMED UP WITH IBM FOR MASS MURDER, AND THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF THE FIRST ETHICAL HACKER

In the era of Big Data, few figures are more divisive as that of the hacker. On the one hand, malicious or “black hat” hackers cause billions of dollars of damage every year, breaking into private and public networks to steal money or personal data or simply to create chaos. On the other hand, so-called ethical or “white hat” hackers use their skills in service of the public good, either by probing computer systems for security weaknesses or leaking information on government corruption and other crimes. While mostly associated with the modern digital age, the art of hacking goes back nearly a hundred years. And one of the earliest hackers was also one of the most ethical, using his skills to save millions of French citizens from the Nazis during the Second World War. This is the remarkable story of René Carmille.

The era of Big Data is a lot older than you might think, tracing its origins back to the 1880s and a daunting problem facing the United States Government. The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be taken every 10 years so that taxes and political representation can be updated according to the changing population. The first U.S. Census took place in 1790, and for the next 90 years census data was collected and processed entirely by hand. In 1880, however, the Census Bureau faced a major crisis: the U.S. population had grown so large that the 1880 census took a full 9 years to complete; by the time the data was ready to use, it was already time for the next census. At this rate, the Bureau feared, future censuses would never be able to catch up, rendering the whole exercise pointless.

Enter Herman Hollerith, an American engineer who had worked on the 1880 census. In 1889, Hollerith patented an ingenious system for speeding up the tabulating of census data, based on the technology of punched cards. While punched cards had previously been used to automate the weaving of complex textile patterns, Hollerith’s system was the first to apply them practically to the field of data processing. Hollerith was inspired by a system introduced by the railroads to help identify and catch train robbers and other criminals. As photography at the time was a slow, cumbersome process, train tickets were instead printed with a series of physical descriptors such as height, eye colour, and facial hair which the conductor could fill out using a standard ticket punch. In this manner, a rough description of each passenger could be recorded. Hollerith realized that this system could easily be adapted to the census, and designed his own punch cards to record census data and a piano-sized machine called a Tabulator to read and process it.

The Hollerith system worked as follows. Census takers would travel around the country and record data like the number, ages, and sex of the people in each household by punching holes in the corresponding fields on the Hollerith cards. These cards would then be sent back to the census bureau for processing. An operator would insert the cards into the Tabulator one by one through a hinged hatch rather like a modern flatbed scanner or photocopier. When the hatch was closed, a grid of spring-loaded metal pins was forced against the card. Where a hole had been punched the pin passed through and made contact with a pool of mercury, completing an electrical circuit. This data was counted and displayed on a series of clock-like dials on the face of the Tabulator, to be manually read and recorded by the operator. The genius of the Tabulator, however, lay in its ability to be rewired or “programmed” to count different combinations of data – for example, unmarried males under the age 30. Hollerith also invented a device called a Sorter consisting of 13 vertical metal bins with spring-loaded lids, each of which could be programmed to collect a different combination of data. So if, for example, the operator inserted a card which included an unmarried male under 30, the bin lid programmed with that combination would pop open so the operator could drop the card in.

The Hollerith system was adopted by the Census Bureau just in time for the 1890 census, and its impact was dramatic. The use of punched cards and tabulators cut the time required to process the census data from 9 down to two years. This dramatic improvement in efficiency lead to Hollerith machines becoming standard equipment at the Census Bureau, and in 1896 Hollerith founded the Hollerith Tabulating Machine Company to sell his machines commercially. Among his first clients were the Prudential Life Insurance Company and the New York Central Railroad, the latter of which processed nearly 4 million freight waybills every year and was an ideal fit for the Hollerith system. Over the next decade Hollerith introduced a number of key innovations which made his system increasingly more efficient and powerful, including redesigned punch cards, improved keypunches for filling out those cards, printers for automatically tabulating data, automatic card feeders and sorters, and plugboards to allow the tabulators to be reprogrammed without having to physically rewire the circuitry. These innovations created a brand-new industry, and Hollerith-style tabulators – now known as “unit record machines” – were adopted by a vast array of businesses for data-heavy tasks like processing invoices and payrolls. The Information Age had officially arrived.

But for Herman Hollerith, success was not to last. In 1903 the new director of the Census Bureau, Simon North, decided that Hollerith had too much of a monopoly on data processing and banned the company’s machines from the Bureau. Then, in 1911, through stock acquisition the Tabulating Machine Company was merged with four other companies to create the Computing-Tabulating Company. Finally, in 1923, this amalgamated company changed its name to International Business Machines – better known as IBM.

Under the direction of CEO Thomas Watson, IBM would go on to dominate the unit record and later the digital computer industry, controlling over 90% of all punch card equipment in the United States by 1950. One of the keys to IBM’s success was that they never sold their machines to clients; they only ever leased them. At one point IBM even considered charging its clients for every individual punch card they used, a practice which would have netted them even more obscene profits. However, for the United States Government this was a step too far, and in 1932 IBM was taken to court for violating the 1914 Clayton Antitrust Act. Though IBM argued that the cards – for which they held the patent – were technically a component of the machines they were already leasing to clients – in 1936 the Government ultimately ruled against them. While IBM was allowed to specify the design of the cards used in its machines, clients were free to acquire the cards themselves from any source they wanted – including manufacturing them themselves. However, even this attempt to extort clients over individual punch cards was far from the most unethical activity IBM would ever be involved in.

The outbreak of the Second World War saw a dramatic surge in business for IBM. Not only did millions of fighting men and tons of military equipment need to be processed for deployment overseas, but unit record equipment quickly found new applications in the field of cryptanalysis. IBM punch card equipment proved ideally suited to searching endless reams of enciphered enemy signals searching for the rare repeats that could help crack the cipher key – a tedious task that had previously been done entirely by hand. Dozens of IBM machines were used at Allied codebreaking centres like Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire and Arlington Hall in Washington D.C, where they helped to penetrate enemy ciphers like the Nazi Germany’s Enigma and Imperial Japan’s “Purple” and shorten the war by an estimated two years.

But IBM equipment would also be put to far more sinister uses. Like dozens of American companies like Ford, General Motors, Chase Manhattan Bank, and Coca-Cola, IBM did not allow the outbreak of war to interfere with its international business dealings – even those with Nazi Germany. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the new government put out a tender for a census of the German people. By this point the Nazis had already expelled all Jewish lawyers, doctors, scientists, and other professional from their jobs, and it was abundantly clear that the true goal of this census was to identify and persecute the remaining Jews and other undesirables in Germany. Indeed, in a public statement, Reinhard Koherr, a statistician working for the Nazi Government, sinisterly announced that: “…in using statistics the government now has the road map to switch from knowledge to deeds.”

Nonetheless, Thomas Watson, the CEO of IBM, instructed the company’s German subsidiary DEHOMAG to bid on the contract, which they ultimately won. Over the next decade, hundreds of IBM unit record machines along with spare parts and punch cards were shipped to Germany, where they were immediately put to use in organizing what would eventually become the Holocaust. Machines were set up in the headquarters of the SS’s Rassenamt or Race Office and even in concentration camps like Dachau, where millions of German Jews, Roma, Communists, Homosexuals and other groups deemed politically or racially inferior were systematically identified, categorized, and earmarked for arrest, imprisonment, deportation, forced labour, or extermination. Shockingly, IBM and its subsidiary did far more than simply provide the Nazis with equipment, also sending hundreds of technicians to Germany to train SS personnel how to use and maintain the temperamental equipment. These technicians also developed custom punch cards and special codes to help the SS designate and process concentration camps, prisoner types, and causes of death. For example, Auschwitz was 001, Buchenwald 002, Dachau 003, and so on; 3 designated a homosexual, 9 an anti-social, and 8 a Jew; while 3 represented death from natural causes, 4 summary execution, 5 death by suicide, and 6 by “special treatment” – the Nazi euphemism for extermination via gas chamber. Given this intimate involvement, it is highly unlikely that IBM was unaware of what its machines were being used for, yet the flow of equipment and personnel continued unabated. In fact, so instrumental was IBM to the Nazis’ policy of genocide that in 1937 Adolf Hitler awarded Thomas Watson the Order of the German Eagle for services to the Third Reich, an honour bestowed on several other American Nazi sympathizers including Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh – and for more on the Lone Eagle’s relationship with the Nazis, please check out our sister channel’s, video “Lucky Lindy and Advancing Medical Science” on our channel Highlight History.

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 should have ended the company’s dealings with Nazi Germany, and indeed in June 1940 Thomas Watson returned his Order of the German Eagle. But while IBM publicly feigned remorse for its pre-war actions, in the background their collaboration with the Nazis carried on as before. In 1939 Watson authorized the shipment to Germany of special IBM alphabetizing machines, which were used to round up and execute millions of Jews, intellectuals, and other undesirables during the Nazi conquest of Poland. So complicit was Watson in this policy that he even bankrolled the construction of concrete bunkers at Dachau to protect its IBM machines from British air raids. The Nazi government also offered to buy DEHOMAG outright, giving IBM the opportunity to make a clean break from its subsidiary. But Watson refused, and DEHOMAG remained under the direct control of IBM headquarters in New York. In 1940, Watson directly managed the establishment of a Dutch subsidiary tasked with identifying and rounding that country’s Jews. Aided by the Netherland’s existing Hollerith machine infrastructure and a long Dutch tradition of recording religion in the national census, this effort succeeded in murdering 102,000 of the Netherland’s 140,000 Jews – an extermination rate of 73%. In every territory they conquered, the Nazis immediately carried out a census to identify and round up its racial and political enemies – a process made all the more efficient by IBM equipment. But when the Nazis rolled into France in June 1940, they finally met their match in an unassuming civil servant named René Carmille.

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When will companies end their embarrassing Pride hypocrisy?

Here come the flag-shaggers. June is Pride Month, the annual exercise in rainbow-washing, and if you listen very carefully you may even hear gay rights mentioned. You might be familiar with Pride Month from past years. On 31 May, the bank is offering you a fixed rate with a four per cent APRC; on 1 June, it wants you to know that, on the off chance you’re non-binary, your mortgage-lender thinks that’s valid.

The most obvious way for a corporation to signal its commitment to inclusivity is to emblazon its corporate branding with the Pride flag, but this is increasingly fraught with difficulty. Because, you see, the Pride flag is no longer inclusive. It’s a gay symbol, after all, and gay men and lesbians rank just below white people and non-graduates in The Current Ideology’s hierarchy of villainy.

Some brands get around this by using the Progress Pride flag instead and, speaking of banks, HSBC has gone down this route. Alas, progress is a fast-moving thing and while the Progress flag boasts additional stripes in blue, pink and white (trans pride) and brown and black (‘people of colour’), it isn’t as progressive as the Intersex-Inclusive Progress Pride flag, which adds a purple ring on a yellow background. Of course, this in itself is a symbol of oppression because it fails to incorporate the flags for polysexuals (those attracted to many genders) and polygenders (those who are many genders). If HSBC can’t get simple stuff like this right, how am I supposed to trust them with my reward current account?

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