Electronic Monitoring

Electronic Monitoring

A Chapter by Debbie Barry

An essay about electronic monitoring and surveillance. Written for INF 103: Computer Literacy.


Electronic Monitoring



There are many types of electronic monitoring and electronic surveillance.  Generally, one is likely to be aware of monitoring measures, but one may be entirely unaware of surveillance measures.  Electronic monitoring and surveillance devices include those used in corrections, those used by businesses to monitor employees and customers, and those used by the government to monitor possible seditious or terrorist activities.  "The following are types of electronic monitoring devices utilized by Oakland County [, Michigan,] Community Corrections Division: Global Positioning System (GPS)[,] Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM)[,] Breathalyzer Monitor[, and] Ignition Interlock " (Electronic Monitoring Devices, 2010, para. 2).  With GPS, "[t]he offender's movements are tracked via satellites and reported at regular intervals, in the event of a violation, the offender's movement is reported in as close to real time as possible" (Electronic Monitoring Devices, 2010, para. 3).  The SCRAM system "uses transdermal ... analysis to determine the offender's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) every hour at least 24 times per day" (Electronic Monitoring Devices, 2010, para. 5).  The breathalyzer monitor "randomly monitors and screens the defendant for alcohol while he/she is at home" (Electronic Monitoring Devices, 2010, para. 6).  Finally, the ignition interlock "is a breath analyzer installed into a vehicle to prevent a person from starting the engine if alcohol is detected in their system" (Electronic Monitoring Devices, 2010, para. 7).  These measures make me feel more secure, as I live in Oakland County, Michigan, and these measures help keep offenders from being dangerous to society.

Monitoring measures used in businesses include card scanners, which "detect ... the proximity of a portable ... security card that may contain a coded magnetic strip or embedded electronic circuitry that identifies the holder as an authorized visitor" (Definition of Card scanner, 2010, para. 1); fingerprint scanners, which "can scan a fingerprint and compare the digitized image/data with fingerprints in a database of authorized visitors" (Definition of Fingerprint scanner, 2010, para. 1); keypad entry devices, which "require ... the user to depress keys in a predetermined order, either sequentially or simultaneously" (Definition of Keypad entry device, 2010, para. 1);  retinal scanners, which "can scan a retinal image and compare the digitized image/data with retinal scans in a database of authorized visitors" (Definition of Retinal scanner, 2010, para. 1); and voice recognition devices, which "can accurately distinguish voice characteristics and compare the digitized voice data with voice prints in a database of authorized visitors" (Definition of Voice recognition, 2010, para. 1).  Businesses may also use security cameras and magnetic security devices inside or attached to products, or metal detectors, to improve security.

Monitoring and surveillance measures used by the government include metal detectors, x-ray devices, and security cameras, as well as the FBI's Carnivore Program.  The Carnivore program "is a packet 'sniffer' diagnostic tool that the FBI's Engineering Research Facility (ERF) in Quantico, Va. developed to covertly search for e-mails and other computer messages from criminal suspects" (Telecommunications Industry Association, 2010, para. 2).

Knowing that electronic security devices are in place sometimes makes me feel more secure, as I stated in the first paragraph, above, but it sometimes makes me feel that my privacy is being compromised, as with certain surveillance cameras that are placed in restrooms or in changing rooms.  I recognize the need for security measures, but I don't always enjoy experiencing those measures.

Electronic surveillance equipment in public places, or in places where individuals do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, do not constitute an invasion of privacy, but surveillance equipment that enters individuals' homes, personal communications, or rest room facilities, or that cause a violation of privileged communications, such as with a doctor, with legal representation, or with clergy, is an invasion of privacy.  In an article in Smart Computing, it was reported that "the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported on its Freedom Network in several 1998 and 1999 articles that 50 million Americans are being electronically monitored at work" (At-Work Privacy, 2010, para. 1).  In addition, "[m]any employers have installed hidden video cameras in locker rooms and bathrooms, sometimes inside the stalls. Many of these devices are specifically targeted against women" (Workplace Voyeurism, n.d., para. 1).  The AFL-CIO, as reported in At-Work Privacy (2010), states that "electronic surveillance invades workers' privacy, erodes their sense of dignity, and frustrates their efforts to do high-quality work by a single-minded emphasis on speed and other purely quantitative measurements" (para. 10).

There have been a number of court cases that involve privacy issues associated with electronic monitoring and surveillance.  In a five-year case that began in 1993, "Frank Etienne and Brad Fair, employees of the Sheraton in Boston ... discovered their employer was secretly videotaping them in the men's dressing room ... it was settled for $200,000" (At-Work Privacy, 2010, para. 13).  Several cases in which the employers prevailed include Bourke vs. Nissan Motor Corp (1993), Flanagan vs. Epson America, Inc (1991), and Smyth vs. Pillsbury Co (1996), all of which involved monitoring of e-mail communications (At-Work Privacy, 2010).  Cases involving monitoring of bathrooms and locker rooms include Florida's Smith v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and Liberti v. Walt Disney World Co; Illinois' Brazinski v. Amoco Petroleum Additives Co. and Benitez v. KFC Natl. Mgt. Co; Kansas' Thompson v. Johnson County Community College; Maine's Delledonne v. Dugrenier; Michigan's Lewis v. Dayton Hudson Corp; and Wisconsin's Gallun v. Soccer U.S.A, Inc.

A case involving electronic monitoring, rather than surveillance, is People v. McNair, 87 N.Y.2D 772 (1996), in which the "defendant -- an admitted alcoholic -- received a sentence of six months of incarceration, five years probation, and a one year period of electronic monitoring" (People v. McNair, 1996, para. 1).  McNair appealed the sentence of monitoring, and "[b]ecause the court deemed the electronic monitoring imposed on Defendant to be fundamentally deterrent or punitive and without express legislative authority, the court rejected its force as a condition on Defendant's probation" (People v. McNair, 1996, para. 7). 

Privacy is a fundamental human right, and in most cases I would say that privacy in an individual's home or in his or her personal communications should be of paramount importance.  However, individual privacy cannot supersede the need for security in government or in business, nor can privacy supersede issues of national security.  Businesses have a right to protect their interests, and employees and customers of businesses have no reasonable expectation of privacy while on the premises of a business.  "No matter how small your business might be, security should be high on your priority list" (Electronic Security Devices, 2010, para. 1).  Businesses use electronic surveillance to improve employee productivity, to reduce losses due to theft, and to reduce industrial espionage (At-Work Privacy, 2010).  Employees need to be careful about using employers' equipment and resources for personal communications, such as phone conversations and e-mails, as "[t]he courts have exploited the doctrine of implied consent to find that employees and applicants have consented to workplace surveillance wherever employers gave advance notice of such monitoring" (At-Work Privacy, 2010, para. 15).



At-Work Privacy.  (2010).  Retrieved March 29, 2010, from           http://www.smartcomputing.com/editorial/article.asp?article=articles/archive/g0804    /20g04/20g04.asp

Definition of Card scanner.  (2010, March 11).  Retrieved March 29, 2010, from       http://www.apt.gc.ca/ap11140E.asp?pId=514

Definition of Fingerprint scanner.  (2010, March 11).  Retrieved March 29, 2010, from      http://www.apt.gc.ca/ap11140E.asp?pId=515

Definition of Keypad entry device.  (2010, March 11).  Retrieved March 29, 2010, from      http://www.apt.gc.ca/ap11140E.asp?pId=516

Definition of Retinal scanner.  (2010, March 11).  Retrieved March 29, 2010, from      http://www.apt.gc.ca/ap11140E.asp?pId=517

Definition of Voice recognition.  (2010, March 11).  Retrieved March 29, 2010, from      http://www.apt.gc.ca/ap11140E.asp?pId=518

Electronic Monitoring Devices.  (2010).  Retrieved March 29, 2010, from the Oakland County,          Michigan, Community Corrections Division Web site at           http://www.oakgov.com/commcorr/program_service/electronic_monitor.html

Electronic Security Devices for Businesses: Security System Tips.  (2010).  Retrieved March 29,     2010, from http://www.morebusiness.com/running_your_business/management/           d924556083.brc

People v. McNair, 87 N.Y.2D 772.  (1996, April 4).  Retrieved March 29, 2010, from           http://www.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/comments/i96_0075.htm

Telecommunications Industry Association.  (2010).  Surveillance Technology.  Retrieved    March          29, 2010, from           http://www.tiaonline.org/standards/technology/calea/surveillance_technology.cfm

Workplace Voyeurism.  (n.d.).  Retrieved March 29, 2010, from           http://www.workrights.org/issue_electronic/em_videomonitoring.html

© 2017 Debbie Barry

Author's Note

Debbie Barry
Initial reactions and constructive criticism welcome.

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Added on November 10, 2017
Last Updated on November 10, 2017
Tags: essay, technology, electronic monitorinbg, electronic surveillance, government, privacy, security

A Journey through My College Papers


Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI

I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..