Surveillance is certainly much in the news lately.
Most notably, of course, there is the continuing outcry over the National Security Agency’s call-tracking program, disclosed in the documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
But surveillance even surfaced as a subject in last week’s televised debate among the Democratic candidates for mayor in New York. The office seekers were asked whether New York City should have more surveillance cameras. Six of the seven, card-carrying liberals all, replied without hesitation, yes. (Only Anthony Weiner said no.)
Most of the public discussion of surveillance technology and its use revolves around the question: Is it spooky or reassuring?
But another issue is the effect of surveillance on behavior. And a new research paper, published on Saturday, shows in detail how significant the surveillance effect can be.
The paper, “Cleaning House: The Impact of Information Technology Monitoring on Employee Theft and Productivity,” is the work of three academics: Lamar Pierce, an associate professor at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis; Daniel Snow, an associate professor at the Marriott School at Brigham Young University; and Andrew McAfee, a research scientist at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The researchers measured the impact of software that monitors employee-level theft and sales transactions, before and after the technology was installed, at 392 restaurants in 39 states. The restaurants were in five “casual dining” chains. The paper does not name the five, but it cites examples of the casual dining category including Applebee’s, Chili’s and Olive Garden.
Employee theft and fraud is a big problem, estimated at up to $200 billion a year across the economy. In the restaurant industry, analysts estimate the losses from employee theft at 1 percent of revenue. That does not seem like a lot, but restaurant profit margins are slender, typically 2 to 5 percent. So cutting down on theft can be an important contributor to a restaurant’s financial health.
Most of the restaurant industry pays its servers low wages and they depend on tips. Employee turnover is high. In that environment, a certain amount of theft has long been regarded as a normal part of the business.
Unethical behavior runs the gamut. There is even a how-to book on the subject, published in 2004, “How To Burn Down the House: The Infamous Waiter and Bartender’s Scam Bible by Two Bourbon Street Waiters.” A simple example is a bartender’s not charging for a round of drinks, and urging the customers to “take care of me” — with a large tip. Other tactics are more elaborate.
But monitoring software is now available to track all transactions and detect suspicious patterns.
The Latest on: Surveillance Changes Behavior
- Google Glass Wasn't a Failure. It Raised Crucial Concerns on December 12, 2018 at 4:00 am
It was an admission of defeat not by design, but by culture. These kinds of skirmishes on the front lines of surveillance might seem inconsequential — but they can not only change the behavior of tech ... […]
- Khashoggi's friends, other foreigners, are being watched. The U.S. can do little about it on December 11, 2018 at 11:06 am
One national security lawyer described the international legal status quo as "anomalous" but said he expected little change. "Persons in the United States are legally and effectively protected against ... […]
- Citizenship v. The Surveillance State on December 6, 2018 at 9:59 pm
This change is hugely consequential ... Advanced forms of data analysis can predict future behavior based on profile propensities, a practice known as predictive analytics. Perhaps we are willing to t... […]
- A Book That Changes the Counterterror Paradigm on December 6, 2018 at 8:02 am
New York City dropped a successful surveillance program in Muslim ... and that it is we -- its victims -- who must change our behavior in order to accommodate and appease those who are victimizing ... […]
- After the Ray Rice scandal, the NFL promised to change. Here’s what’s happened since on December 4, 2018 at 2:43 pm
The NFL did not reach out to the investigating police officers, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, or the hotel to attempt to gain surveillance ... front of ethical behavior, and I think ... […]
- Surveillance Parenting on December 3, 2018 at 3:34 am
But of course, once you think you have to monitor all those things, it changes the very essence of parenting ... There are devices that send parents reports of their child's "sleep behavior" all night ... […]
- Sell-Side Desires Variety in its Surveillance Offerings on December 3, 2018 at 12:19 am
Being on the lookout and able to snuff out nefarious or problematic trading behavior before ... and demand in trade surveillance and monitoring technology has significantly grown recently due to regul... […]
- Surveillance is a Bad Look: The Untimely Optics of Google’s Project Dragonfly on November 29, 2018 at 10:30 am
One fantastic resource on this is journalist Yasha Levine's "Surveillance Valley ... Google remains slow to change its behavior in reaction to public sentiment. From failing to show up for its hearing ... […]
- What Constant Surveillance Does to Your Brain on November 14, 2018 at 5:04 am
a clinical psychologist who has studied the effects of surveillance on mood and behavior. Chisholm gave me the example of a study he did on human rights defenders who were campaigning in Ethiopia ... […]
- Want to Nudge Your Behavior in the Right Direction? Practice A Little Self-Surveillance on September 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm
Rates of compliance increased when instructions were accompanied by subtle surveillance cues. These findings reinforce the importance of directing attention towards the individual when trying to encou... […]
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