Ethics@Work: Spying on yourself

The Day of Atonement is an opportunity to scrutinize our actions anew.

September 20, 2007 22:18
2 minute read.
Ethics@Work: Spying on yourself

asher meir 88. (photo credit: )

I've written quite a few columns on the topic of spying. Some were on spying on your competitors (bottom line: you are allowed to use only publicly available information; if you are the target you can engage in limited subterfuge to keep the competition guessing); spying on your workers (only when there is a compelling reason to suspect serious wrong-doing, and only when the information will be used in a focused and equitable way). I even wrote about doing Google searches on potential dates (best to have someone else do these for you and give you a thumbs up or thumbs down; knowing too much may take the romance out of your meeting.) The latest topic I have encountered is spying on your spouse. This is a very active area, and quite sophisticated means are available to suspicious wives and husbands. I plan to write about this very delicate ethical topic soon, but I decided it wasn't a very uplifting topic for the eve of Yom Kippur. Instead, looking at the impressive arsenal of gadgets and subterfuges used in this particular battleground of the war of the sexes inspired me to a different thought, very relevant to this season: How would we look if we spied on ourselves? Suppose I attached a GPS tracker to my own car, and a key logger to my own computer. Suppose I carefully scrutinized my own cell phone records, and planted a secret recorder in my own living room. If I then analyzed all my findings, like a good private investigator, what impression would I receive? Would the objective picture presented by this hard evidence jibe with the self-image I cherish? Or would I be surprised, perhaps dismayed, perhaps a bit amused at the very imperfect and vulnerable creature with a tendency to make quite indulgent side trips, to spend far too much time at frivolous Web sites, and to fail to return far too many calls? This is really what Yom Kippur is about: spying on ourselves to evaluate our actions from a more objective and judgmental point of view. This Yom Kippur, don't think about yourself. Think about that intriguing stranger who inexplicably shares your travel log, your key log, your phone log and so on. How would you counsel that person to get his or her act together for the coming year? I wish all my readers that they be sealed for a good year, one full of moral inspiration and acute personal insight. The author is research director at the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem (, an independent institute in the Jerusalem College of Technology.

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