Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
“We value/care about our employees” is one of the most hypocritical statements companies make these days.
(“Our customers are very important to us” is the other.)
The Republican-controlled Congress is pushing through a bill to give corporations the ability to intrude deeper and more personally into your life than ever before.
A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information. (…) The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a ‘workplace wellness’ program.
This mean that, in the name of “wellness,” your boss will know if you were treated for an STD or that you are predisposed for alcoholism, Parkinson’s, cancer, or whatever.
Not only your boss, but the unregulated company that runs your company’s wellness program, but is not constrained by HIPPA rules.
Employers, especially large ones, generally hire outside companies to run them [wellness programs]. These companies are largely unregulated, and they are allowed to see genetic test results with employee names. (…) They sometimes sell the health information they collect from employees.
Can your company actually force you to comply?
No, but the penalty for refusing is costly in the form of higher insurance premiums and co-pays.
No health insurance at your company? You could still take a major financial hit.
If an employer has a wellness program but does sponsor health insurance, rather than increasing insurance premiums, the employer could dock the paychecks of workers who don’t participate.
In general, Corporate America’s attitude towards its employees reflects its attitude towards customers.
For the most part, that ranges from “general nuisance” to “necessary evil.”
And while the number of exceptions to that attitude, at least when it comes to customers, is growing, it doesn’t always apply to employees.
As the provisions of this long-desired bill prove.
That said, it will be a great recruiting tool for those companies that don’t do it.
Image credit: Daniel R. Blume
Tuesday, February 14th, 2017
Companies are becoming more and more involved in their employees personal lives, especially health-wise.
That’s understandable, considering how fast costs keep rising.
Startup Omada is a good example of what’s new.
The company’s business model is unique, as it doesn’t just charge employers per customer, but it actually depends on the success of each individual to make money. Omada’s revenue is outcome based.
This means that client companies pay only when there are positive results and that’s a good thing.
Accomplishing it, however, can feel invasive.
Its flagship program, Prevent, is modeled around the National Institutes of Health study called the Diabetes Prevention Program and is designed to help participants modify their behavior and reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes.
The client company contracts with third-party organizations to identify those most at risk for at risk of diabetes or heart disease and enrolls them for intensive personal counseling.
The digital scale that each user gets, which is connected wirelessly to their Omada account, does daily weigh-ins to track their weight loss, as that is a good indicator of blood sugar and the risk of diabetes. Omada then gets paid based on the percentage weight loss that user has seen.
However, weight is not always an accurate indicator. Based on my lifetime weight I should be diabetic, have high blood pressure and likely a heart condition.
But I don’t.
In fact, I am amazingly healthy, always have been, and require no medication, whereas 85% of people my age are taking at least one prescription drug.
While Omada’s process would work for many people it feels invasive to me and if I were an employee I’d want to opt out of it.
So the real question here is not the value of the program offered, but whether the employer forces people to do it and penalizes them if they refuse.
Image credit: Vator TV
Wednesday, May 25th, 2016
Like porn, privacy evil seems to be in the eye of the beholder (me), but not in Google’s eye.
I’ve written in the past about the fluidity of evil and the privacy difference between Apple and the rest (Google, Facebook, etc.)
Now I see that Google is going above and beyond in the name of “user convenience.”
Google will need to convince people that having AI manage your life is more convenient than it is creepy.
I get that many of you like the idea and have no problem with suggestions and tracking, etc., so you may have no interest past this point.
But those of you who consider tracking more akin to stalking and are happily capable of managing your own life/world will find the following truly valuable.
In a truly informative and useful article Business Insider provides links so you can see what Google knows about you.
Better yet, it walks you through how to delete and control how Google uses it and what it sells to third parties.
It’s a long way from the privacy Europe enjoys, but it’s sure better than nothing.
Image credit: Lamerie
Tuesday, May 10th, 2016
How would you feel if someone constantly followed you and then shared that info with friends?
Would it bother you more if the info was sold for cash?
Would you report your stalkers? Or at least find a way to stop them?
Essentially, that’s what Google does.
It follows you on your jaunts around your cyber-world and both shares and sells that info.
Remembered the last time you surfed around looking for a particular product and then found ads for the same thing on every page you looked at for months afterwards?
What many of us consider commercial stalking Google and others call “improving the user experience.”
My solution is using the DuckDuckGo search engine that doesn’t track you, or for total anonymity I use ixquick.
But what can you do if you’re addicted to Google and have been using it for years?
You can say thanks to Business Insider and use the step-by-step, illustrated instructions for deleting your history preventing continuing surveillance that they recently provided.
The funny thing is that what most people want is choice, i.e., the ability to easily opt out when a search is extremely sensitive — by their definition, not a third party’s.
And, at the end, since it’s all about money, perhaps if enough people opt out Google will change its approach and give you a simple way to decide who is privy to what in your own little corner of cyberspace.
Or, an even more heretical idea, pay you for it use.
Image credit: E Photos and Business Insider
Thursday, January 7th, 2016
New year, new ideas — one would hope.
Less ‘me too’ and more ‘me new’, or, as Matt Rosoff puts it, stuff that impresses his 5-year-old son.
By groundbreaking, I mean a technology that changed society, changed every other industry in the world. The World Wide Web was groundbreaking. The internet was groundbreaking. The personal computer was groundbreaking.
And before you write Rosoff off as a know-nothing consider Peter Thiel’s comment.
“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”
It’s nice to know my nobody-know-nothing opinion is in good company.
In the tech world IoT is supposedly the bright light on the horizon, but don’t hold your breath.
According to a study by Accenture of 28,000 consumers in 28 countries, the world is tired of gadgets and no interest in replacing what they have.
Worse for tech, the public is waking up to the fact that it doesn’t give a damn about people’s privacy, security or even safety as long as they buy — at least not until it’s forced to and then only enough to shut up the noise.
As Accenture puts it, companies must “ignite” the next five years of growth by coming up with products that “offer a compelling value proposition,” “ensure a superior customer experience,” and “build security and trust.”
Read the article. Digest Accenture results.
Then think about what you can build that would impress a 5-year-old—even a little.
Flickr image credit: centralasian
Thursday, October 8th, 2015
Have you ever thought about a very basic difference between Apple and Google and Facebook?
All are highly profitable.
All have a laser focus on their customers.
But only Apple honors its customers privacy.
Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with NPR to talk about privacy, and described it as a “fundamental human right.” The comments come after Apple updated its website to make its stance on privacy clearer, something Cook describes as “a values point” not “a commercial interest.”
Whereas Larry Page’s recent comments when asked about the new name Alphabet indicate a totally different mindset.
The point, according to Larry Page, the Google co-founder who will be Alphabet’s chief executive, is for the separate parts to be independent and develop their own brands. That would never happen with all of them under the Google banner, given that many associate the name solely with a consumer search product. Many of the companies operating under the Alphabet umbrella, artificial intelligence and robotics, for instance, may never be consumer-oriented.
Mr. Page, in a blog post announcing the move, took the opportunity to note some wordplay in the name. “We also like that it means alpha‑bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark),” he wrote, “which we strive for!”
At least Google finally dropped the words Don’t be Evil from its values, which is good, because it abandoned the attitude in the name of profit long ago.
The article claims that the difference can be explained by the fact that Apple sells things, while Google and Facebook depend on ads, but Amazon (which is not mentioned) generates its revenues selling stuff and still tracks (stalks) its visitors.
Flickr image credit: Chris Scott
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
Want to integrate almost real-time employee action analytics to give your people better feedback and potential career boost?
There’s an app for that.
Imagine a tiny microphone embedded in the ID badge dangling from the lanyard around your neck.
The mic is gauging the tone of your voice and how frequently you are contributing in meetings. Hidden accelerometers measure your body language and track how often you push away from your desk.
The app is from Humanyze, the test subjects work for Deloitte, participation was voluntary and the anonymous results positive.
“The minute that you get the report that you’re not speaking enough and that you don’t show leadership, immediately, the next day, you change your behavior,” says Silvia Gonzalez-Zamora, an analytics leader at Deloitte, who steered the Newfoundland pilot.
“It’s powerful to see how people want to display better behaviors or the behaviors that you’re moving them towards.”
But only when there is choice and trust.
Then there’s the truly evil app that records everything employees do 24/7, with no anonymity .
The U.K.-based company The Outside View, a predictive analytics company, also recently gave staff wearables and apps to measure their happiness, sleep patterns, nutrition and exercise around the clock in an experimental project.
So your boss knows when you decide to watch your favorite TV show, instead of taking a work-related course, or sing karaoke, instead of going to bed early.
“It’s bad enough that we lose control of our identities with threats of identity theft. I think it’s even worse if we lose the privacy of our actions, our movements, our physiological and emotional states. I think that’s the risk.” –Kenneth Goh, professor of organizational behavior at Western University’s Ivey Business School
They actually think that employees will be motivated by coming to work and having their boss ask why they didn’t work-out, but were up until 2 am.
I don’t think so.
As with so many inventions through the centuries, no matter how pure the motives of creators, anything can be corrupted and its use perverted by other humans.
Hat tip to KG Charles-Harris for pointing me to these stories.
Flickr image credit: Hans Splinter
Monday, July 6th, 2015
How freely do you discuss the details about how you think, what you like, what you believe and the challenges you face with strangers?
Sites, apps, data brokers and marketing analytics firms are gathering more and more details about people’s personal lives — from their social connections and health concerns to the ways they toggle between their devices. The intelligence is often used to help tailor online experiences or marketing pitches. Such data can also potentially be used to make inferences about people’s financial status, addictions, medical conditions, fitness, politics or religion in ways they may not want or like.
How willing would you be to sell that information to benefit a total stranger?
What if it would benefit a pet company, such as Apple, Facebook or Hulu?
You already give up your personal information in return for better access to their products and services, but you do so with the idea that you won’t be packaged and sold.
In fact, most sites tell you upfront that they won’t “share your personal data with third parties.”
But, as they say, the devil is in the details and buried deep in the privacy statements is a giant ‘but…’
Of the 99 sites with English-language terms of service or privacy policies, 85 said they might transfer users’ information if a merger, acquisition, bankruptcy, asset sale or other transaction occurred, The Times’s analysis found. The sites with these provisions include prominent consumer technology companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, in addition to Hulu.
It’s a safe bet that if these sites have that caveat, so do thousands of others — both large and small.
The expansion of the Internet of Things provides companies a far more intimate look at your life than ever dreamed possible.
It’s a trend that is likely to widen as companies introduce new Internet-enabled products, like connected cars and video cameras, which can collect and transmit a constant stream of data to the cloud.
Your best hope (if you care) is to assume that caveat emptor reigns.
Generally, caveat emptor is the contract law principle that controls the sale of real property after the date of closing, but may also apply to sales of other goods.
Your data is ‘other goods’.
Stuff happens; economies go up and down and businesses wax and wane.
Any company, no matter how large or seemingly stable can find itself in the position of having to sell or transfer its assets.
Your data is an asset. Period.
Flickr image credit: safwat sayed
Friday, June 19th, 2015
A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here
If you’ve been around long enough you find déjà vu connections everywhere.
I had a strong sense of it reading that security has become a priority with VCs.
According to The Information, computer security companies are being brought on to advise other companies about startups they are thinking of acquiring, and VCs are including cybersecurity experts as part of their due diligence when they look to invest in companies.
Security has been an after thought, if that; a feature that the company would get to as soon as [whatever] happened.
The déjà vu hit because that is the same attitude companies had towards quality once-upon-a-time (some still do).
After conception, architecture, design and manufacturing were done the product was sent to QC (quality control) and back up the line if there were problems.
In many cases the quality flaws were actually designed into the product or the manufacturing process itself, which made fixing them very expensive or impossible.
The same problem happens when security is the afterthought.
Any fool knows that if the wrong grade of steel is specified for a bridge or the spec is changed to facilitate speed or budgetary concerns the bridge is likely to fail sooner rather than later.
Zukerberg’s oft repeated “move fast and break it” is proving to be a deal breaker in a more ways than one.
Image credit: HikingArtist
Monday, June 15th, 2015
First it was Uber drivers, members of the so-called 1099 economy, who sued Uber.
Next, the general public woke up to tech’s rapacious abuse of their privacy and personal information.
And last week nearly half of shareholders voted against the executive compensation plan of a company whose stock is near its all-time high.
According to an SEC document filed Tuesday, nearly 47% of the total shareholders voted against Salesforce’s executive compensation packages at its annual shareholders meeting…
Maybe, just maybe, corporate America has finally gone too far and we’re ready to fight back.
Flickr image credit: Annelid
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