The employer-surveillance state

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The more bosses try to keep track of their workers, the more precious time employees waste trying to evade them.

Jason Edward Harrington spent six years working the luggage-screening checkpoint at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. A college graduate and freelance writer, he initially took the job as a stopgap, but found that he enjoyed meeting passengers from all over the world, some of whom showed a real interest in him. But while working for the TSA, Harrington noticed that his bosses were following and video-recording his every move, a practice they said was at least in part for his protection: If, perchance, a traveler’s iPad went missing, the videotapes would prove that Harrington was not to blame. Harrington was on board with that. His problem, he told me, was that supervisors would also view the tapes to search for the slightest infraction—anything from gum chewing to unauthorized trips to the bathroom. Eventually, these intrusions led him to quit. “If they trusted us, respected us, you could really enjoy the job,” Harrington told me. “But they didn’t.”

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