MORNINGS don't come easy to me. They never have. My body wakes fine but my senses are usually an hour behind.
A shock can align the two pretty quickly, and that's what happened one morning as I slumped into my chair in a small newspaper office.
There was post for me on the desk. The letters had no envelopes. They had been opened by someone else and discarded. Must be a mistake I thought. I checked discretely with a colleague and post addressed to him had also been opened.
Now I was wide awake. I quietly asked a manager what was going on and was told that it was company policy to open ALL letters. I was told that if I didn't want them opened, then I should have them sent elsewhere.
There was no such thing as personal in that workplace.
A number of years previously, when I was staff with a national newspaper, a document was circulated requiring employees to sign up for email monitoring. No signature, no company email address. Telephone extension PIN numbers were also sought.
The document explicitly stated that all computer equipment, telephones and desks etc were owned by the company and it was therefore within its rights to control access and use of such equipment.
Individual rights were an afterthought or were negotiated into history.
Since then web monitoring and letter-opening has been joined in the workplace by drug testing (including alcohol), fingerprinting and other biometric data gathering and CCTV cameras. And there's more to come.
In a way, these developments are about more than privacy. They are about control.
The employers who use surveillance methods believe that because they own the company, the plant and pay they wages they have rights which trump individuality.
In short: 'we own your ass'. If you don't like it, you know where the door is.
The primary purpose of surveillance is ostensibly to protect a company's interests. But it has the added-value (a beloved concept) of policing and enforcing behaviour.
It's all about power. To question that is to question authority.
You can be an individual, so long as it's outside of work hours.
For the time being.