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 …

  1. TonyJ Silver badge

    I once worked at a company and amongst other things, we repaired camcorders (remember them?).

    One day one of the guys was panning one around and he noticed that the new clock that had appeared recently in the workshop had a white spot.

    The CCD sensors in even mobile phones pick up infrared as white light - try it sometime if you are bored: flip your phone to camera and point a tv remote at it whilst pressing a button on the remote.

    Anyway, it turns out the company owner had decided to buy a covert spy camera.

    He pulled a couple of still stunts like that over the years - turning off the beep on the front door so he could sneak in when people were doing overtime; putting a clocking in and out machine in just for the engineers (that backfired catastrophically as people went from staying to fix whatever the were working on to working to the clock).

    It's not new behaviour even if it's abhorrent.

    1. A K Stiles
      Big Brother

      An organisation I used to work for had a time recording clock system, which recorded time in decimal hours - 8.0 - clock was reading between 08:00 and 08:05, 8.1 - clock was reading between 08:06 and 08:11, etc. The system automatically removed a specific amount of time during the day to reflect a lunch break so you only clocked in on arrival and out on departure, at the building you worked in whilst the car park could be up to 1/2 mile away and car share people had difficulties from the divergent attendance where they worked in different buildings closer or further away from the car park.

      In the morning you'd have a bunch of people hustling to get to the clock machine so it clocked you in before ticking across to the next 6 minute block, whilst at the end of the day there would be a queue forming as nobody would clock out when the clock read 29 minutes past the hour.

      After a few years it eventually changed to recording the nearest minute, which at least reduced the queuing to leave issue. Joys of a big organisation and not trusting their highly paid staff members.

      Senior managers didn't have to use the clock system as 'they obviously work longer hours anyway'.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        In my yoof I briefly worked in a big industrial printers . And there was a time clock. And the queue to clock off at the permitted time went half way round the building.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "In my yoof I briefly worked in a big industrial printers . And there was a time clock. And the queue to clock off at the permitted time went half way round the building."

          and, naturally, as well as docking people coming in late, they paid overtime to those clocking out after the normal quitting time, yes? </sarc>

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            John Brown (no body)

            Yes, but it was better to not complete the day's work on a Friday, because at weekend it was double time.

      2. TheProf
        Devil

        @A K Stiles

        The time recorder at one place I worked used decimal hours and 'clicked' every 36 seconds. I'm not ashamed to say I'd stand there waiting for it to click over before clocking out. After all what's 1/100 of an hour to a big company?

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      It's not new behaviour even if it's abhorrent.

      He is lucky it is UK. He would be doing jail time for this one if this was in Germany or Austria as well as the several countries which cut-n-pasted their privacy legislation (f.e. Russia).

    3. Teiwaz Silver badge

      I once worked at a company and amongst other things, we repaired camcorders (remember them?).

      I think the concept that people actually used to be able to get something repaired is more of a stick poked at a dusty synapse.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        "...I think the concept that people actually used to be able to get something repaired is more of a stick poked at a dusty synapse..."

        It was the early 90's, so yeah...you're right. :(

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "a covert spy camera" or security camera ?

      TonyJ provided an interesting tale.

      Emitting infrared light is not an inherent requirement of cameras, covert spy or otherwise. It's not uncommon for cameras to use IR LEDs to illuminate the dark, or as a focusing aid distance measuring. But dong so certainly impacts the 'covert' aspect.

    5. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: "It's not new behaviour"

      Many years ago, doing a stint with a very oldschool solicitor firm which had just gone computery (ah, the old CADO Cat!), they had a signing in book. Each staff member had to enter their name and arrival time.

      Part of the office manager's duties involved drawing a thick red line under the most recent arrival's name at 9:00 on the dot so people couldn't fake their arrival time.

    6. Potemkine! Silver badge

      flip your phone to camera and point a tv remote at it whilst pressing a button on the remote.

      It's a very useful trick to check if the batteries of the remote are empty or if it's instead that bloody TV set which went amok 30s before the start of the finale.

  2. Chronos Silver badge

    "Safe place"

    Now I get it. The tracker isn't in the van, it's in Jeff's smartphone. And looking more closely at the street map, it appears he's not in my back garden but my neighbour's, placing his delivery package in its "safe location" at the back porch.

    Which is now not so safe as it has broadcast the fact that mateyboy has just put something there. With my security hat on, this is a potential vector, quite aside from the privacy of the worker delivering the packages.

    Still, this is Dabbsy's column, so I shouldn't be so bloody serious.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: "Safe place"

      Dabsy's columns are usually serious. The points he makes are often very serious commentary on modern tech lead society. It's just that he's funny about it

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: "Safe place"

        It's just that he's funny about it

        As in "ready for the funny farm"?

    2. JimC Silver badge

      Re: "Safe place"/potential vector

      I'm sure that was as obvious to Dabbsy as it was to me, hence the quotes...

    3. elDog Silver badge

      Re: "Safe place"

      Or a bit of a assault on privacy of the nice lady in the next-door manse waiting for the "postman" who only rings once...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Corporate Security

    After having to help corp security find the whereabouts of a dozen or so visitors I'd been hosting from around the globe, after one terrorist incident, I'm not averse to there being a system in place with an app.

    Even if I know deep down that kind of thing is just HQ butt-covering.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Corporate Security

      Hmm ... just for the down voters:

      Some of the people had gone on to stay in the town and attended the event where the attack, which had multiple fatalities, took place.

      1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

        Re: Corporate Security

        I Upvoted you as you've identified a good use for the App and related systems - I suspect the downvoters are either too cynical and paranoid (yes, such *is* possible) to understand that everything (even politicians and Big Brother apps like this) can have a positive use or are Management types who don't want the plebs thinking they should be getting anything good at all out of this.

        You can get "card protectors" that (allegedly) stop people activating your contactless cards - does anyone make pouches that do the same for Smartphones?

        1. David Nash Silver badge

          Smartphone pouches

          You don't need pouches, just turn off location when you are not on company business.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Smartphone pouches

            "just turn off location"

            Going through the procedure to turn it off and actually turning it off aren't necessarily the same thing.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Smartphone pouches

              "Going through the procedure to turn it off and actually turning it off aren't necessarily the same thing."

              Not least of which is the that turning "location" off in most cases merely turns off the GPS. Phone mast location can still operate, albeit not as accurately.

          2. Tom Paine Silver badge

            Re: Smartphone pouches

            Turning off location is the first thing to do with a new phone; I've never so far had cause to turn it back on. As fara sI know that only deactivates the GPS, though - it doesn't stop the various other techniques for localising a device.

          3. Da Weezil

            Re: Smartphone pouches

            Turn of location services while not on company business? hold on... its MY phone.

            If they want to track this wage slave they can provide the hardware themselves. location services are only shared with a small group of people that I feel need to be able to locate me. NONE of them relate to employment.

            With some employers, we are moving further away from a mere contract of emplyment into becoming "owned assets".

          4. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: Smartphone pouches

            "You don't need pouches, just turn off location when you are not on company business."

            Not necessarily sufficient to turn off location reporting these days:

            https://www.techrepublic.com/article/your-smartphone-can-be-tracked-even-if-gps-location-services-are-turned-off/

            https://www.zdnet.com/article/google-admits-tracking-users-location-even-when-setting-disabled/

        2. Graham Cobb

          Re: Corporate Security

          I downvoted you because you have identified a completely disproportionate and unrealistic justification for a blatant privacy violation.

          Yes, I understand that the incident caused you and your company a lot of genuine concern and I commend your hard work in checking on your visitors' safety. I had an employee on business in the New York area on 9/11 and it was obviously very worrying for him, his family and for us in the company. I know that his wife appreciated the effort we went to to confirm his safety and let her know before he had been able to call her directly.

          However, such incidents are of such low likelihood that it is not worth taking any action at all in advance, let alone sacrificing an important human right. I haven't checked the numbers, but I am sure the likelihood of being killed in a terrorist attack is much less than that of being killed by lightning.

          What we need is a society which values reasonable assessments of risk and accepts that "something must be done -- this is something" is no way to make decisions.

          1. dbtx Bronze badge

            something must be done -- this is something

            "Ahh, there's nothing like a totally worthless 'CYA' maneuver, when one's customers are miffed."

            "... wouldn't 'creative problem solving' lead to a much better ending?"

            "I didn't say there was nothing better, I said there was nothing like it."

            (because some people who make decisions where I work happen to really suck at thinking)

      2. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Corporate Security

        I've worked at several places where they have a system to ask people to "check-in" in the case of such incidents. No tracking involved, just concern for their employees.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Go

          Re: Corporate Security

          Umm, if you were trying to track them down, why didnt you just call their phones? An app means they need a network connection and thats the first thing to drop out, before the ability to make calls, in an "overactive" (for want of a better term) area.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Corporate Security

            (different AC here)

            If you have a major terrorist incident, cell phone service isn't going to be a reliable contact method to reach people in the danger zone for the following reasons:

            * A big enough event may have taken out local towers or other communication links.

            * The surviving network is instantly swamped with inbound and outbound calls as people try to check in.

            * The area becomes saturated with additional traffic as first responders arrive.

            * Depending on the nature of the incident and local support: The telco network may be intentionally suppressed to either prevent remote triggering of bombs or to prioritize emergency communications.

            Beyond the technical issues, there's the human element issue. If there's an active situation (hostage situation, active shooter, etc.) DO NOT call anyone you suspect may be in the line of danger. If you call them, you could reveal a hiding space, or you could interrupt their attempts to get a message out.

            The final possibility is that he may have attempted to call them (after the chaos died down and the above items no longer apply) and not gotten a response. In that situation, you may find that a tracking app puts them miles away from the scene and simply out of touch, in which case you relax. Or it may put their last known location right at the event, in which case you may need to deploy some effort to find out if they're among the fatalities.

            1. Tom Paine Silver badge

              Re: Corporate Security

              * The area becomes saturated with additional traffic as first responders arrive.

              [ argue_mode="the toss" ]

              In many (not all) such circumstances, the first thing that any non-medical first responders will be doing is explaining to everyone around that they should vacate the area as fast as practical. (the police training in that "voice of command" thing is remarkably effective.)

              Secondly the first responders are still using AirWave, rather than mobile phones, as the plan to move them onto the EE cellular network is going about as well as you'd expect it to. I trust the emergency services don't take personal devices with them on duty (anyone know?)

              Not calling people to check they're OK in case they're hiding in a cupboard has only ever been an issue in the US, where marauding shooters are a weekly or daily occurrence. There have been a couple of hostage situations in France where it could have had tragic consequences.

        2. joed

          Re: Corporate Security

          I don't know who I'd be afraid more - the company with "concern for their employees" or the service provider. For this reason I've refused to install their app and I've never checked in outside of the "in private" mode (during emergency drills). Location services are off (most of the time) but who knows how soon mdm will disable possibility of users (like me) having this choice.

          1. doublelayer

            Re: Corporate Security

            The fact that you can think of a reasonable use case for the software, for which I commend you, doesn't make the software all right. The problem is that you are thinking about how to actually use the software for its stated purpose, which is to make people safe. If I had to use it, I'd definitely prefer to have you running the system and dealing with the results. However, the people who are actually buying this are almost certainly using it to track their employees in a way that is very creepy.

            For an analogy, consider keyloggers. You could use one of these for a variety of legitimate purposes. You could use it to help correct frequent errors. You can use one (I've done this) to identify users by their typing style. You can use one to have an audit trail of things entered into systems that don't make it simple to collect one otherwise. All of these uses are possible, but usually keyloggers are used to steal passwords and related information, and saying that it will be used for other purposes followed by, essentially, "trust me" shouldn't just be taken at face value.

            This has been done before. Companies that wish to break the law but make it look legitimate make excuses for what they're doing. The people who make software that allows people to test their malware against antivirus never say they thought malware writers would pay them for it, but instead market it as a service for software writers. The people who make malware that enables stalkers to track all phone activity market it as security software. People who make malware that allows people to spy through webcams market it as a convenient way to turn that old laptop into a home security camera. These are deceptions. It would be great if everyone deploying a system was like you, having the safety of the employees in mind, but they aren't, and that reality is important to deal with.

          2. Tom Paine Silver badge

            Re: Corporate Security

            Pretty sure MDM with location tracking would be a pretty major no-no under GDPR. Some employers may have a legit interest in knowing staff locations (delivery drivers, taxis, er,.. ) but as with Dabbsy's Amazon drone, the tracking should be of the vehicle only.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If it's their for health and safety then as an employee you could argue it's optional however we know companies will say it's mandatory for your own good, not sure how many times I've heard that one before.

  5. TonyJ Silver badge

    Corporate tracking devices, courtesy of Dilbert: http://dilbert.com/strip/2011-05-27 :)

    Forgot to add that to my post

    1. John Miles

      It has advanced a bit since then - Employee Health monitoring - though you can turn the tables Boss Decision Making, but hope it isn't an inherited trait Mom's monitoring

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge

    This will work...

    ... at least until someone follows the delivery man round all day and collects the packages.

    1. joed

      Re: This will work...

      exactly my thought. I'm really surprised that Amazon let something like this slip out. Not sure about compliance with GDPR but definitely it's a security risk for customers and great opportunity for for criminal when time with release of an iDevice or alike (buy one, pick bunch free en route).

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: This will work...

        Many tracking URL's that delivery companies give you used to be easily hackable, in the sense that, changing the tracking number by 1, or so, you can track some random other person's parcel - complete with their address (and whether they were in or not).

        Hopefully this vulnerability has now been fixed.

    2. Colonel Mad

      Re: This will work...

      Or worse?

    3. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: This will work...

      But only someone with a parcel on the van that would have access to that data. Narrows down the range of suspects quite a lot, especially if they do it more than once..

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's to protect your health and safety

    It's to protect your (employers') bottom (line), i.e. make sure that, as humanly possible, you spend 100% of the time they pay you for, on the job they pay you to do. Wait til the next step, when they start _deducting_ your pay for each instance when you fail to meet the minimum 100%. Nonsense? Yeah, right, wouldn't YOU want to earn "this little bit extra"? And "that little extra bit extra"? Every little help, so why not THAT little extra bit.... And comes a salesman (salesbot) with the product that helps you achieve EXACTLY THAT. Which human would refuse that "extra"? :/

  8. cklammer

    Alistair is easy

    This article proves one conclusion at least: Alistair is easily and cheaply entertained :-)

    Christian

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Alistair is easy

      Yes, it only requires a US megacorp to plough millions of dollars into logistics to keep him happy.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Alistair is easy

      But could he be an 'Amazon Addict'

      Yes folks, another 'AA' member about to attend 'their meetings'.

      Just say no to Amazon. If you want the biggest hit of endorphines go to the store and buy the thing. Buying from Amazon does not come anywhere near it in terms of euphoria levels. (other online outlets are available)

  9. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Battery life ?

    As recently as the iPhone 6, using the GPS essentially continuously results in the battery charge assuming a downward trajectory to intercept 'flat' in about 5-6 hours.

    Perhaps the very latest GPS chipsets (or the embedded 'baseband' equivalent) have improved their power consumption, so that they'll last an entire working day.

    In other news, Package Thieves are doing very well. Their theft efficiency is way up, almost as if they're tracking the deliveries. Coincidently, Jag sales are up.

    1. HamsterNet

      Re: Battery life ?

      Two points, later phones use mostly Wi-fi map to reduced the power requirement significantly.

      Secondly they can have chargers in the van.

      1. cambsukguy

        Re: Battery life ?

        Given that GPS devices shouldn't use much power and that WiFi locating does, albeit usefully for location purposes, it is the cell transmissions that will do for it.

        If a blue dot was seen traversing a garden etc. then either the device was transmitting continuously, goodbye battery, or it transmitted more rarely and AWS filled in the gaps using interpolation or stupidity.

        Either way, transmitting and mapping all day will break even the baddest regular phone so charging is a near certainty.

        And, given the requirement to have it on the person and the fact that they might have to get out of the van every few minutes, I would have thought wireless charging was a must.

        It just so happens that I work on a product that tracks location, checks for danger via several vectors and continuously updates a server with multiple sensor readings, whether it be heart rate or noise levels etc. We aim at a minimum 12-hours using a smartphone-sized battery (3000/4000mAh).

        Of course, we don't have a powerful processor, a big screen or loads of apps installed so it is more do-able.

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          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.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Battery life ?

          "checks for danger via several vectors"

          Does it turn your glasses opaque?

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        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.

  10. Teiwaz Silver badge

    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.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      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..)

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      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.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        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

  11. macjules Silver badge
    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

    1. Mycho Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Get out more?

      I prefer Lightningmaps.org personally.

    2. cambsukguy

      Re: Get out more?

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

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      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

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        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.

        1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        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/

  12. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "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."

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      "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.

    2. macjules Silver badge

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

  13. Putters

    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 ...

    1. Dr Scrum Master

      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...)

  14. Kickstone

    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.

    1. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

      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 ;)

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      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."

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        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.

        1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          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.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      "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.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        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?

        1. onefang Silver badge

          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.

  16. J J Carter Silver badge
    Pint

    Is it beer o'clock?

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

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  20. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    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.

  21. Lloyd

    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.

  22. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    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.

  23. Sloppy Crapmonster

    "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.

  24. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    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.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "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.

  25. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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

  26. Colonel Mad

    Copy

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

  27. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    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.

  28. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Enterprise Upskirting

    Just laughed out loud in the hotel bar. Top marks

  29. jake Silver badge

    "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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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

      1. jake Silver badge

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

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

  30. Potemkine! Silver badge

    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.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      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

  31. Terry 6 Silver badge

    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.

  32. Douchus McBagg

    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.

  33. onefang Silver badge
    FAIL

    I ordered a pizza one day, and watched the delivery person on the tracking web site. From their shop to my home is relatively straight forward, leave the shop, turn left, drive to the end of the street, cross road, drive to the end of that street, wait for lights, cross road, turn right, stop after two blocks. So the tracking dot got to the lights, almost close enough for me to see their vehicle, but then they sat there for a while, turned around, got most of the way back to the shop, and turned off in some random direction. I spent the next half hour watching them driving around in circles in two different suburbs. At one stage they where driving the wrong way along a one way street.

    You would think they would add GPS navigation to the GPS tracking.

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