Text and Email Surveillance


New Orleans This almost seems like one of these surreal déjà vu moments where you have to pinch yourself and try to remember where you are and where you are going.  I was writing a note about the way Chinese workers were using modern technology and keeping it positive, when not minutes after I finished a decision came out of the Supreme Court making it all a jumble in my mind.

    “Chinese workers were using technology but also being cautious about the ability of the company and the government to intercept their messages and thwart their tactical.  Look at the Times article again:
    A looming question now, in fact, is whether and when the government might seek to quash the current worker uprisings if they become too big a threat to the established social order. Already, the government has started cracking down on strike-related Web sites and deleted many of the blog posts about the strikes.
    The instant messaging service QQ, which is accessible via the Web or mobile phone — and was perhaps the early favorite network of strike leaders because of its popularity among young people — was soon infiltrated by Honda Lock officials and government security agents, forcing some to move to alternative sites, strike leaders say.
    “We’re not using QQ any more,” said one strike leader here. “There were company spies that got in. So now we’re using cellphones more.”
    Analysts say they were smart to change.
    “QQ offers no protection from eavesdropping by the Chinese authorities, and it is just as well they stopped using it,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, a China specialist and fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. “QQ is not secure. You might as well be sharing your information with the Public Security Bureau.”
    But the activists say they are getting around some of those restraints by shifting to different platforms (including a Skype-like network called YY Voice) and using code words to discuss protest gatherings.”

Meanwhile in the USA, land of the free, home of the whatever, the Supreme Court ruled that a public employer (the government) and in this case a police department, had the right to read the text messages on an employee’s pager.  Seems 95% of them were personal, and they were hot little items to his lady on the side.  The suit was filed though by the cop, his wife, and the girlfriend, all of whom thought their privacy was on beatdown.

Most Americans would probably scoff at the few rights that Chinese workers have and reading the Times piece the derision seeps up between the lines, but here it seems that maybe the Chinese workers could teach American workers a little bit of something about how to understand their bosses and keep one step ahead of the game without falling for false promises and squishy sense of entitlements.

In America, the boss, public or private, owns you on the job and any tools from a hammer to a cell phone of the employer, they own as well, part and parcel.  As the saying goes, your soul may belong to jesus, but your ass – and certainly anything out of your mouth and mind it turns out – belong to the job.

The Chinese understand that 100% and they aren’t fooled.

Maybe these are lessons we all need to learn?