What god-like powers does Mark Zuckerberg have? Well, for starters—he divides populations by spreading fear and misinformation, all while making astronomical amounts of money. Another power that one might not immediately identify is ‘content control.’ He has the power to control what we see/don’t see in our Facebook feeds—and now he is talking about sharing that power with your boss.
Earlier this week, Lee Fang from The Intercept reported on internal Facebook presentations surrounding updates to Workplace, an office collaboration tool (Facebook’s version of Slack). Internal Facebook marketing updates focus on giving employers and system administrators the ability to control trending content on Workplace through filters or by blacklisting certain words like ‘unionize’.
For many non-union employers, especially those operating in unionized industries like manufacturing, healthcare, and transportation—the ability to stymie unions and limit employees’ rights to organize must seem like a godsend. However the last time I checked, workers (in most countries) still have the right to organize, so marketing a tool that is so clearly focussed at depriving workers of their civil liberties is just another shockingly crass overstep that seems impossible to believe—that is until you remember that it is Facebook we are talking about.
Does Facebook care about your rights?
Facebook routinely tramples on the civil liberties of its users by exercising complete control over what content each of us can post and see posted on our timelines. Giving this power to an employer seems like an egregious breach, even for a sociopath like Mark Zuckerberg. What is his endgame? Is he just looking to take over Slack’s dominance in the workspace collaboration market? After all, Workplace has been around since 2015 but has nowhere near the market share of Slack.
Ever since the laptop and the mobile phone were invented, employers have been anxious to embrace mobility as a tool to increase the productivity of workers—for instance, you might use that laptop or smartphone to do some extra work on your commute or from home on the weekend, but now that working from home has become mandatory for many people during the pandemic—employers are scrambling to apply traditional concepts of productivity to remote operations.
In the beginning, the main concerns surrounding a more mobile workforce centred around security of sensitive corporate data on mobile devices. I should know, I used to sell software for exactly this purpose. Laptops and mobile devices still use software that needs to be updated and systems administrators need to ensure remote workers login to the corporate network on a regular basis to do so. How do you do this? Track the laptop or phone and send a note to the user reminding them to login when required.
Sounds innocent, right? Think again.
Tracking employees to ensure compliance was soon followed by tracking employees to determine productivity. If we could establish that laptops were updated—making sure that employees were actually working seemed like the next logical step. Soon, employers were loading key-loggers (a hacker technology) on their employees’ devices to track how much time they spent typing on their keyboards and what they were typing.
Aside from being reminiscent of something the Stasi would do, keyloggers and other remote ‘productivity’ management tools have the potential to cause a lot of headaches for employers, so why would any employer want to do it? Simple, once they tasted the forbidden fruit of spying on their employees, they were hooked.
Facebook is simply taking the next step by offering a more powerful opiate to your boss, the ability to not only track you but the ability to proactively influence what you say or do before you even say or do it. This type of power is the ultimate endgame of remote workforce management for those employers who cannot resist the temptation to control their employees’ lives.
Let’s remember what happened the last time people went looking for god-like powers, they got kicked out of paradise.