Digital monitoring systems equipped on semi-trucks are intended primarily to ensure long-haul truck drivers are accurately logging their driving hours and thus minimizing the risk of accidents. However, when paired with new federal regulations, these same monitoring systems are being used to track far more than hours logged and raising concerns over surveillance and driver privacy.

Karen Levy, assistant professor of Information Science, has worked closely with long-haul truck drivers to learn more about the industry. Her discoveries highlighted in a recent Science Node write-up, Levy learned the electronic logging devices (ELDs) used in more than a million trucks could be used more broadly than a high-tech replacement for a pen-and-paper logbook; it could be deployed as a “fleet management system”, not only capturing hours spent behind the wheel, but driving speed, the amount of times the driver braked, fuel use and location. Further, and potentially more nefarious, management could use the system’s captured data as a kind of performance assessment, ranking drivers against others and pressuring them to comply with organization goals. 

“As industries expand their geographic reach, remote managers increasingly rely on information communication systems to control far-flung resources, including employee activities,” she says.

As Science Node writes, technology offers companies and organizations new ways to oversee the work of their employees. 

Indeed, in some brick-and-mortar stores, the use of in-store customer tracking has raised privacy concerns for both customers and workers, as Levy and Cornell Info Sci colleague Solon Barocas addressed in the Harvard Business Review