back to article Every step you take: We track you for your own safety, you know?

Jeff Bezos does my gardening. This was something of a surprise to me, too, as my usual gardener – who's called Geoff, eerily enough – has already visited this morning. Why Mr Bezos should now be in my back garden trimming bushes and edging the lawn is beyond me. Maybe it's a Prime Exclusive. Unfortunately, I haven't seen JB …

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Re: Battery life ?

Third point: company delivery drivers tend to have dedicated communication thingies, ruggedised, large batteries, with just the app installed that does all the delivery-related stuff (tracking, signing, navigation and such) and nothing else. No Angry Birds, Youtube, Farcebook.

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Pint

Re: Battery life ?

csg suggested, "...GPS devices shouldn't use much power."

I agree that they shouldn't. But did you realize that, sadly, they sometimes actually do?

Later chipsets are typically much improved in this respect. So YMMV.

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Re: Battery life ?

"checks for danger via several vectors"

Does it turn your glasses opaque?

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Being on Stage is stressful

Knowing you are being watched all the time is stressful - any cost savings in (let's cut to the nub, this is intimidation - cut the safety etc. excuses, it's surveillance) would surely get eaten up by increased employee stress levels.

As to the customer eagerly tracking the delivery of, say a pet fountain (? shakes head sadly), that's also a stress factor. Sitting watching the progress of the blip as it moves erratically closer, then away, then closer. I did that once on a package delivery, it sat at a parcel warehouse for two days mid week - drove me near to insanity (well, OK, closer, cheep cheep cluck, cluck).

Every time someone implements things like this it shaves another day off the time 'til the fall of civilisation.

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Re: Being on Stage is stressful

a pet fountain

I don't need a fountain that spouts pets - I seem to manage to collect them adequately myself..

(And lets not go into the subject of cats 'owned' by a neighbour that all seem to want to come and live at my place. If we let them all stay, we'd be up to 10 cats and that's too many - even for me. As I've always observed - cats will live in a place that they want to and those ovbiously rate my place above their nominal home. Even though my house contains an angry dog that doesn't like any cats other than his own..)

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Re: Being on Stage is stressful

"a pet fountain (? shakes head sadly)"

Can we take guesses as to what it really was?

Actually, a pet fountain raises various images. Assorted animals cascading into the air... Dabbsie patting a fountain on the head saying "There, there, who's a good fountain"... It reminds me of a sign outside a farm advertising Pet Hay. Takes all sorts.

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Re: Being on Stage is stressful

> Actually, a pet fountain raises various images. Assorted animals cascading into the air

You can make a cat fountain in Minecraft....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87kiWHY5bIs

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Go

Get out more?

In fact, I've been watching the little blue circle wobble around the streets for hours.

No disrespect Mr Dabbs, but you really need to get out more. You'll start spending your days watching https://www.flightradar24.com next

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Mushroom

Re: Get out more?

I prefer Lightningmaps.org personally.

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Re: Get out more?

ooh, thanks for the reminder... gf on a plane in a minute, must check.

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Boffin

Re: flightradar24.com

There is far too much going on on that site. How about this one as a substitute for watching paint dry.

http://gridwatch.co.uk

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Re: flightradar24.com

flightradar24 turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Very few of the planes going over or near our house seem to have the required transponders. The PIA flights on the way to land about 20 miles away are easily identifiable without it; they're the ones coming in low enough to read the pilot's name badge.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: flightradar24.com

You might at least quote the ORIGINAL gridwatch

http://www.gridwatch.org.uk

And you can even see how many other bored anoraks there are looking at it too.

http://gridwatch.org.uk/admin/

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Re: flightradar24.com

"Very few of the planes going over or near our house seem to have the required transponders."

There is a feature in Flightradar24 (and other tracking services) that allow aircraft operators to declare their data 'private'. And keep it from being displayed by the web sites. As a matter of FAA regulation, if I understand correctly. You agree to honor the block or you get no data at all.

On the other hand, the USA appears to be well behind the rest of the developed world in mandating tracking technology. I have my own ADS-B receiver, so I can see transponders directly. I am surprised (and shocked) by how many aircraft operate with the bare minimum of required transponder data. Specifically, no GPS fields in their broadcast.

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"It also monitors toilet visits and scans your retinas every 80 seconds."

"Why's that?"

"Just making sure you're still you. Some might call it invasive, but we think it shows we care."

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"Just making sure you're still you. Some might call it invasive, but we think it shows we care."

Might want to add a rectal-oscopy (or something, to drunk to google) - Might be wearing a skin-suit.

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I suspect that someone has a Word auto-correct problem with 'rectal' versus 'retinal'.

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Off Tracker.

The Sky guys that fitted our dish last Autumn were certainly in no hurry to depart - once they twigged that our location in Upper Swaledale is a complete mobile signal not spot and they were out of reach of the tracker or manglement communication ...

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Re: Off Tracker.

Are they still using the software from Idesta Solutions?

(That was over 10 years ago, and they were using various XDA models at the time...)

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Good old days

Worked as an IT Field engineer for many a year. When things were quiet it was a doddle. Late starts, long lunches, early finishes. When it was busy you used to just crack on and get the jobs done. You had a queue, it was your responsibility, you made sure the jobs got done...especially if it meant you could get home early on a Friday.

Management got wind of a small few taking the mick. Instead of tackling those select few they came down on us all, all hands on heads so to speak. Timesheets, tracking, the works.

Thing is, after that we all did the bare minimum. Instead of doing 7 jobs a day to make sure your queue was sweet you did 3. If you did more then they would ask why you couldn't keep up at that rate....so why should you bust a gut! There was nothing in it for us to plough through the jobs except an underhand remark if you didn't manage the same number of jobs the next week. Complaints and such started to increase when there was hardly any before, productivity went down and moral went through the floor.

It used to be a great job, after the tracking it felt like you were starring in 1984. Management bit their nose off to spite their face.

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Re: Good old days

I have the pleasure of both managing and doing calls in what sounds like a similar field.

When we had car tracking it was work to rule and while jobs got done there was room for improvement.

We got rid of the car tracking as a cost cutting exercise and almost magically more calls got closed per engineer per day. I think it was because we all spoke to eachother more rather that just looking at the map and where everyone was. When I spoke to engineers I was able to give them advice so they could close calls quicker rather than just think... they are there and can sort it out etc.

The lack of tracking also allows more flexibility with regards to hours, people work harder when you give them start and finish calls close to home. That 10 minute drive to the first call and 20 minute drive home at the end of the day always beats the 1 hour plus commute to the office. Fuel expendature has gone down as well, fugue that one out ;)

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Re: Good old days

Management bit their nose off to spite their face

That seems to be the normal mode of operation. Instead of punishing the offenders, just give everyone a beating. My favorite sign hung in many offices: "The beatings will continue until morale improves."

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Re: Good old days

Loss aversion seems to run deeply in British management. Underlying this is a bit of well documented psychology that says we all see a small loss as more significant than a small gain.

But in management terms this comes out in the wash as being happy to waste 40 hours of company time each week to prevent staff wasting four hours.

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Re: Good old days

"Loss aversion"

The other side of this: I used to work for the local electric utility. One day, the shop supervisor was ordering some new hand tools for the line crews. I was puzzled by the quantity that he had ordered. He stated that we needed enough for everyone to have one for their home toolbox before we could be sure to have any stay on the line trucks.

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Anonymous Coward

It's interesting when the tracking shows you are "33 out of 105" stops. Gives you an idea when they might arrive. Sometimes you wonder at the routing algorithm as they seem to be ignoring you as they whizz pass your road in various directions.

Note the word "stops". The first time I used the Amazon tracking I was waiting outside the front door for half an hour - even though I was the next stop and the van was apparently just round the corner.

Was the driver stopping for something - possibly his name was "Ernie"?

The explanation was that the very large footprint block of over 200 flats round the corner counts as one "stop" - irrespective of how many are getting deliveries. The driver has to traipse along a warren of many corridors and floors hoping he has chosen an efficient order - and can carry everything without a return to the van.

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"Sometimes you wonder at the routing algorithm"

I asked a truck driver about this very issue some time ago. His answer: While you might expect Amazon, UPS and FedEx to invest in state of the art routing/planning AI, many of the routes are driven by contractors. And routing is part of their responsibility. Some of these are pretty small outfits, possibly owning only a few trucks. And the dispatcher does his planning (if any) with a plastic map and grease pencil. Or not at all. Drivers might be handed a daily list in alphabetical (by customer name) order.

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Re: "Sometimes you wonder at the routing algorithm"

I ordered some racking and given a method of tracking the progress of the delivery. Racking didn't arrive yet the tracker showed the driver had been in the vicinity. Chased them for an explanation, which finally came back: They'd loaded my order onto a HGV and I live on a residential street with parking allowed both sides. The following day they used a smaller lorry, problem solved. IIRC the delivery company was TNT who I would expect to have knowledge of the roads in their delivery area.

Perhaps a HGV was delivering onefang's pizza?

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Re: "Sometimes you wonder at the routing algorithm"

I think you could fit two or three pizza shops inside a HGV, I was only ordering the one large pizza.

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Pint

Is it beer o'clock?

It's a bit early to be drinking so heavily, surely?

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Anonymous Coward

A neighbour asked me to supervise a delivery recently. Just one large cabinet to replace one damaged in their kitchen refit.

The company said "delivery 08:00 to 13:00". So deshabille eating breakfast at 07:30 - an SMS arrives "delivery window 07:30 - 09:30".

On my second coffee at 08:50 the truck arrives.

Apparently they have lost an hour taking it to the "wrong" address in a nearby town. Their paperwork didn't reflect a change of plan negotiated by the neighbour the previous day. That changed the delivery address - and specified the time as "early". When they failed at that address - they then had to phone their office to get the correct address. The "early" note was however on their paperwork - making them take a circuitous route to make it the first delivery.

The same glitch in communication became obvious when they tried to find the cabinet in the load. They had to spend half-an-hour unloading another customer's whole kitchen onto the pavement. It had been packed by the warehouse to be the "first" logical route delivery.

It didn't help that the kitchen units were not compact flat-packs - and the truck didn't have a tail-lift.

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Anonymous Coward

It does have risks...

On more than one occasion, having grown impatient for my Amazon toy to be delivered, I've used the tracker (Normally the DPD one) and been able to find the van in real time. Drive up to it, hop out, tell the driver I've got parcel 'xxxxx' but I'm going out - fancy chucking me it now and that you sorted?

Now if I, an impatient consumer can do that, I'm sure and I am -surprised- that some criminals haven't done similar. Someone with no links or history places the order, tracks it and leads the car of guys with hammers on to the delivery van.

Consider the value within some of those vans and the resale options down the local market or boozer and you're sorted.

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Dominos

Family member worked as pizza delivery and one day they got issued a smartphone with tracker and I was asked to help. Manglement were sort of half competent at complying with DPA (a year before the GDPR) and despite initial misgivings it worked out alright.

Not unreasonable for people to want to know where their pizza is, also protection for pizza person should they have the misfortune to deliver a pepperami to someone whose reason for ordering was not because they were hungry.

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pet water fountain

Is the "pet water fountain" in question a cat mate? I only ask as it'll cost you a bloody fortune in filters and you'll need to brush up on cleaning the motor out when it gets clogged up (guess what I did last night). There's a nice chap on Youtube who's got a very informative video on how to dismantle it.

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HR dogging your every movement.

A large industrial and communications company had a rather old-fashioned HR policy that expected staff to be shackled to their designated desks where they belonged. Although it supplied remote working solutions to civilian, law enforcement and military customers, it was very much against the idea of home working. And it just happened to have developed one of the first GIS/GPS fleet management solutions. So they decided it would be a brilliant idea to make sure all field workers, sales, engineers, consultants etc were fitted with these 'to maximise productivity'.

Soon after, a director was summoned to HR to discuss a sensitive matter. A number of staff, and sometimes their manager had been meeting up, booked out as customer visits. The map showed the meetings taking place in wooded areas, so they were convinced something against company policy and morals must be happening.

This was pre-Google & Bing aerial maps, which may have shown the buildings, double fences and things the customer's generally preferred to keep off maps. But the director promptly arranged for the system to get transferred across to the security group.

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"fondling a hoe in one hand while wielding his dibber in the other"

Pretty sure that gets your prison time in The Land Of The Free.

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New laptop ordered. Despatched one afternoon down to distribution hub halfway to London. Then returned by nextmorning to local distribution hub about the same distance from the point of despatch as myself but in the opposite direction. Whilst watching its final moves on that roundabout trip its despatch location was on the same map. It must have done at least 250 miles to travel about 12.

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"It must have done at least 250 miles to travel about 12."

Standard practice in national distribution networks. Everything goes to a hub, gets sorted, then sent off to distribution centres via big Artics. Sending smaller vans from one distribution centre to a nearby distribution centres would probably cost more in extra staff, fuel and vans since the Artics are travelling anyway whether fully or partially loaded. It might work if the system could detect enough local parcels to remove a partial loaded Arctic from the route but I'd bet that get's quite complex quite quickly and may end up with trunk lorries at the wrong location and having to travel empty to another location.

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Big Brother

The Former Micro-Managed One Man IT Field Guy

My last role had a very nice small team of people that could share a pool of knowledge, tasks & abilities.

Manglement shuffle & the new head tosser decided that the team of four in our remote location could become two teams while remaining one team, one half covered the Government stuff, the other commercial clients.

He was constantly looking for ways to fudge the figures so that we were engaged 100% of the time in work to make him look good. Then would berate us for doing exactly what he asked when his bosses noticed. Along with exact routes taken to marry up with the mileage claims per job. Much more time was spent calculating the shortest to take & the longest to enter into the 3 different systems.

The Government team suddenly got very very very busy, me & my partner got to sit in our unit & await deliveries that might deign to show up sometime between 10.30 -14.00 twiddling our thumbs.

Then he left & I was lumped into the sitting around all day twiddling thumbs or being berated by emails from different CRM's & bosses for:

Not being in the unit to receive parts, because I was out fitting the parts that came late in the previous day (Over one four day period I was spending all day traveling to & from remote sites in different directions on for different customers sites, without actually setting foot in our unit at all).

Prioritising one repair & wait for the parts to arrive after complaints by one CRM, while receiving complaints from other ones that I wasn't dealing with their calls.

GPS tracking was about the only thing that Uncle B** hadn't managed to put into place (Above his pay grade), though he loved to monitor what jobs we were booked into, a man that stated he was so busy, but he actually went looking for ways to increase his workload by micro-managing & ensuring we weren't trying to wring a extra few cents on our expenses claims.

Well I can say it now - I turned up each day at the unit at the expected time of deliveries, rather than sit all day in a freezing or in summer fly infested, while sewer gas leaked into the unit & buggered off after the expected window for deliveries closed. Morning phone conferences were taken from the bed or bathroom. Repairs were scheduled for times that suited me once I had the parts, because Uncle Ben insisted on strict adherence (on paper) for a 7.5 hour day.

I'm now in a much better IT role I do a full 8 hour day mostly behind a desk, I'm left to get on with things my own way & I'm much more driven & have a much greater sense of job satisfaction as a result.

New company manager & Director of IT want to push me deeper into things & I'm hungry for the challenges.

Trust & respect in a job is a two way street, though tracking can be a necessary evil in some cases.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The Former Micro-Managed One Man IT Field Guy

That's a classic;

by micro-managing & ensuring we weren't trying to wring a extra few cents on our expenses claims.

Senior (local authority) management who almost never went off site were given an "Essential Car Allowance" which was a lump sum payment and regular monthly travel payment which they never actually justified by doing the travelling.

Frontline staff in all sorts of work areas that travelled all round the authority, usually to standard locations with relatively short, repeated known journeys (As in on Wednesday I always go from X to Y) had to fill out a long form by hand with every stop listed and a trip meter reading at teh start and end, then the mileage entered, the difference calculated and the total at the bottom copied onto a different form. In theory* this meant that at every stop you'd be pulling out the form and entering the reading, before you got out of the car to do the job, and so on. Then getting back to the office and spending a good 20 minutes each month putting in the totals and adding up/subtracting all the figures.

These were, I have to emphasise, regular known routes that couldn't be faked by more than a few pence worth if you tried (1.5 miles instead of 1.2 miles maybe, which is under 10p worth) The staff time cost in doing the paperwork was a massive multiple of the potential overpayment that the authority would suffer by just letting staff make a regular claim for their regular timetable. What got me though is that our travel that was essential to the work of the authority wasn't Essential Travel.

*In reality I faked the trip meter reading (random number + known mileage on Monday then a slightly higher initial mileage each day through the week) and had converted and saved the form into Word with a table and formulae to do the maths

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Copy

Perhaps the Editor would like a tracker on Dabbsy, just to see if he's close to filing his copy!

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S&M

It seem clear to me.

Sales and Marketing have this new product under development - it's going to track employees for management to determine performance ... the lawyers advise that this would breach privacy laws so it's rebranded as an employee safety device ... everyone will need one.

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Enterprise Upskirting

Just laughed out loud in the hotel bar. Top marks

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"Tachometers show a blip if you stop off en route"

I think the device you were thinking about is a tachograph.

Tachometers are devices fitted under the vehicle's seats to measure how much Mexican food the delivery folks had for lunch.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Tachometers show a blip if you stop off en route"

"Tachometers are devices fitted under the vehicle's seats to measure how much Mexican food the delivery folks had for lunch."

No they are not. A tachometer is just a device that measures speed of rotation, although it's also a commonly used term for the instruments in e.g. old tractors which show the relationship of RPM to speed in each gear

https://bit.ly/2zkiSEN

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Re: "Tachometers show a blip if you stop off en route"

Anybody feel like explaining to the AC what that whooshing sound was?

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Subversion

- There's a market for an app faking GPS location to fool tracking apps (I take only 10% of total incomes for this brilliant idea, thank you)

- For the poor wage slaves who work for Big Brother, it's time to get two smartphones, the cheap official one with the mandatory surveillance app and the kept-confidential one you use to play in the toilets when the first one is locked in the drawer next the working desk.

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Re: Subversion

Plenty of such things exist

If you are developing mobile code ans using emulated device and need to do any location stuff then GPS position simulating software is vital.

Even with real device, for in office (stationary) testing will want to have GPS simulator giving change in location so you can test your GPS based code.

There is a big interest / market in GPS spoofing software for all sorts of other reasons, ranging from privacy to cheating in GPS position based phone games.

GPS jammers are quite cheap & popular with drivers that have location tracking fitted.... use case is have stop time (e.g. lunch break) in known GPS blackspot (so not suspicious when signal lost), turn on jammer, drive off, spend your "stop time" elsewhere e.g. doing a cash in hand job then return to blackspot and turn off jammer

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Hold on there a minute

The story says "Jeff's phone..." but that don't mean it's literally the Smartphone that he owns and uses in his private life. Or that his bosses are requiring him to install this app on his own property. The most we can read from that phrase is that it's the phone he uses in his job. I'm sure his bosses could find somewhere to buy phones for the delivery people. That's if he's a direct employee, anyway.

Do Amazon even employ their own delivery fleet? Our stuff comes from all sorts of delivery companies.

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gate times.

more than once I've pulled and been asked to pull the gate times for myself and others to prove a point, or help them out of a hole created by manglement. Anything that lends itself to more "Bofh'ish" behaviour or evidence, ends up with "oh sorry, the landlord reset the security system last night and that data has gone", and a quiet word of education in the basement carpark. or the said car park doors closing too quickly on relevant mangelment's shiney new Porsche, (it didn't buff out) - old IR sensor problem, car was too low... they also don't like matt painted rangerovers/bmw's either funnily enough...

if you have to swipe in, out, or through a building, you're tracked. it's how the facilities guys know to knock the gym access off your card a month after you signed up and done you're health assesment, but make sure the vending machines are well stocked with Yorkies and Dailymilk fruit and nut. No, how you keep putting on weight is a mystery.

also the little rotating dome cameras are usually either set on a fixed point, or on a 1 minute rotation.

if there's been an office re-shuffle, and you're sat on an end desk or where your screens can be seen by others or face an open plan area - HR/boss have seen your browser history and are now just waiting for physical evidence, and some tell-tale-brown-nose with line of sight to call down for a "co-incidental" walk past of your boss, and possibly HR manager.

but yeah. we use apple to track our employee's for us. icloud enterprise is an amazing tool.

"hello yes? you're calling me from the hotel? your phone doesn't work? that's because you're in Tunisia, a country O2 seem to think equivalent to Syria, and so you have no data unless your on wifi… how do I know? because I can see your little blue dot …. er… its in your calendar!".

It's built in to every iPhone, and we enable it by MDM policy. Even employee devices that they "just" want their work email on. Read that small print folks ;)

I just haven't figured out what apple use as their "teamviewer" type software to see your phone screen and take control if needed. I've seen it in action and it's brilliant. I want it.

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