Can I Just Call You?


Once we wondered whether it was better to have loved and lost, rather than never to have loved at all. Now, in this age of technology, we may be more likely to wonder if it’s better to accept a next generation iPhone from an employer or continue to pay a couple hundred dollars a month for the use of the decidedly low-tech flip-phone we received free with a two-year contract last year.

The decision isn’t as simple as it may seem.

It’s a complex blend of money, prestige and, perhaps most importantly, control–factors that can potentially ruin any relationship.

A friend told me last weekend that her employer offered to provide her an iPhone, at his expense. She declined–but then discovered she was getting one, like it or not, early next year, “to better stay in touch with clients.” That made it clear that chosing the phone isn’t really her choice at all. And that’s a bit unnerving.

When you take an iPhone from someone who issues your paycheck, you’re taking more than a piece of technology. You’re handing over a piece of yourself.

If I sound paranoid, I probably am. I’ve been monitoring my kids’ cell phone accounts far too long to know just how much data it’s possible to obtain from even the most basic equipment. I can only imagine the records it’s possible to amass with a couple of sophisticated hacks on a ‘net enabled phone.

A lifetime ago, back in the unimaginable time before even preschoolers carried cell phones, I worked the overnight shift on the news desk of a major daily newspaper.

In the middle of the night, when I would take my lunch or breakfast or whatever break, I’d always try–unsuccessfully–to leave before anyone could hand me the walkie talkie that tethered me to the desk. It was huge even by the standards of the times–the size of a quart Thermos, and just about as heavy as one, totally full.

I hated the fact that I was an accidental push away from sharing any conversation I might have on my break with anyone in the newsroom. And given that it was 3 am, the odds of accidentally pushing the wrong button were relatively high.

(If it’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep, and the phone is ringing in the White House, who do you want answering the phone? I can tell you right now, you don’t want it to be me.)

I just didn’t like having so much contact, or potential contact, with my employer. (It probably explains why I ultimately went into business for myself. But that’s another story.)

The fact is, it’s important to have boundaries. Work. Life. Family. While there are always times when work and life collide, is it really necessary to keep it all connected 24/7 with an iPhone an employer is paying to provide–and, so, consequently, we feel obligated to answer? And how much self-restraint does it take for an employer to resist taking more than a cursory look at an employee’s monthly equipment use records?

I realize employers have been able to check phone records ever since they began providing employees with standard cell phones. But iPhones represent a new level of sophistication. There’s more possibilities, more data. More ways for employees to make mistakes.

I like iPhones. And I like everything the phones can potentially do. That’s why, when I get one, I’ll pay for it myself. I’ll track my own use, thank you, even if that means I have to pay for it.


Filed under globest, life, random, Technology, thoughts, work

5 responses to “Can I Just Call You?

  1. As the manager of a graphics department I find I’m expected to constantly be contact-able, yet my work does not provide for any reimbursement of my cell phone use or off hour times – the joy of being salaried I suppose. That aside, I think there is a lot more paranoia when it comes to what our IT department actually looks at, versus what they could look at.

    For example, our IT department is fully capable of tracking IM’s, internal emails, and other services that our computer users take advantage of. That said, for the most part IT is only focused on the overall network traffic and not the individual user. If something happens where a sudden red flag is generated, say a spike in data being transfered because someone is downloading a bunch of music from iTunes or a P2P site they take a look.

    But the average user, who’s looking at some facebook page while his work load is slow, I can assure you that you’re more than likely not being watched. Of course, if for some reason your employer is actively seeking a reason for letting you go, and you probably are aware of this situation already, then your online work practices are more than likely being monitored and notes are being taken.

  2. Sam

    I stay away from employers who offer Trojan trinkets. Of course I’m an independent contractor so that’s pretty easy. If an employer really is giving you a new iPhone then it’s yours, meaning you own it. Otherwise it is not a gift, its a trap. If an employer assigns a phone to you inform them that you have one and its not necessary for you to have two phones. If they persist I’d recommend offering them a resignation. Perhaps it’s just me and my independent spirit, but I really don’t like big brother in any form and I don’t need a technological Trojan trinket that acts as an electronic tether to a job.

  3. Aww…..another reason I decided to be my own boss.
    I so understand the “benefits of being on salary” remark. LOL
    It’s like the boss feels that they own you. (thus the iPhone, company-issued laptop, VPN connection, etc.)
    But, you know? I am ashamed to admit that I can’t imagine life without technology.
    I feel disconnected without the ability to access the internet or to check my cell phone for missed calls.
    (sigh) I’m addicted.
    Great blog. I’ve enjoyed reading your take on technology.
    I’ll definitely be back to read more.

  4. Nice blog. Thanks to author.

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