Can I make you some bucks?

how the net is transforming the way we work and earn

Can you count on your iPhone to protect you? September 3, 2008

I’ve always had a mental image of the type of woman who when thrown into the workplace is likely to be sexually harassed. You know the type. The ones who show too much cleavage. Whose French manicures make typing even the simplest sentence impossible. And it’s not that I think they deserve it. Or that on some subconscious level they’re asking for it. I guess it’s just my way of reassuring myself that that is one less thing I need to worry about when I get my first job.

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Because I certainly am not one of those girls. I fail to take myself seriously with even the lightest nail polish. So forget about the French manicure. And as for the cleavage, well let’s just say that’s something I’ll leave to the professionals. Those who wear wonderbras and still manage a graceful strut. So generally, I stay away from all this feminine paraphernalia. I keep it simple.

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But obviously I’m doing something wrong. I haven’t quite mastered the art of professional elusiveness. It was about 2 weeks ago. My department organised a networking function to mark the end of their careers fair. And in the true spirit of such schmooze-athons many of my fellow class mates handed out their CVs to these prospective employees.

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I felt a little sorry for them actually, the employees that is. Instead of waiters offering to pour them drinks or a taste of some exotic spring roll starter they got small talk with an accompanying CV shoved down their throats. And so it really didn’t surprise me that the wine seemed to disappear rather quickly.

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But that’s the tricky thing about these situations. There’s a very fine line which it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of when networking professionally. And to me, that line was crossed when one of the employees called me over to tell me that he couldn’t take his eyes off me. I guess I should feel flattered. That some media mogul noticed me. After all I’m just some jean and blouse wearing student. But then he followed me. Trailed me in his car when I left the department, actually. And yes the kind, well-meaning gentleman did offer me a lift home. But to me that’s crossing the line rather too boldly.

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But where to from here? It would be my word against his. You know how it goes. And nothing happened. Except for the whole line crossing thing. And while a part of me is tempted to write to his company I know I’ll look like the tattle-taler.

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And that’s why you should never leave home without your cellphone. Imagine if I caught all of this on my cellphone camera. There would be none of this his-word-against-mine stuff. And think of how easy it would be. All you need is an excuse to whip phone out of pocket. Something like thinking you heard your ring tone or wanting to check the time. And like that, a most useful surveillance tool enters the conversation.

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And it doesn’t end there. You can install Spyphone software on your cell phone that will allow you to covertly record conversations within close proximity to the phone. Useful but that’s not really thinking outside the box. Imagine if there was some sort of video surveillance that was able to capture these charming little experiences. A no mess no fuss solution that could potentially cut down on workplace harassment. With an estimated $3.2 billion being spent on surveillance devices in 2007 the options are endless:

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  • The Mobotix Q22 security camera offers 360 degree coverage and also allows you to zoom in on objects. It also comes with built-in microphone and speaker for two way communication.
  • You can go the Video Analytics route. Pricy and perhaps not suited for the workplace but this uses equipment that can detect changes in movement and any possible threats. This is being used in Chicago.
  • There’s the LIVEcam surveillance system which not only costs less than $300 but is SIM card enabled allowing you to dial in to see what is happening.
  • Not to practical but it may suit your office environment to go for a camera which is built into a book. Your co-workers will never know it’s there.

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Is all this surveillance meant to make us feel safer? If Big Brother was allowed into the workplace would it really make these spaces harassment free? I doubt it. Surveillance is a comforting idea if you ignore the impracticalities and there are many:

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Scotland Yard says that CCTVs help solve fewer than 3% of all crimes, while a study in San Francisco found that at best, criminals simply move out of camera range, while at worst they assume no one is watching.

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Technology can help innovate the working environment and working culture, turning us into travelling nomads with the latest gadgets. But sadly, that is where it ends. When it comes to dealing with harassment perhaps its best to rely on the good old fashioned pepper spray and leave the techno geeks to worry about more important things … like iPhones.

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