JAPAN - What was once a typical scene, a businessman taking an extended rest between client visits at a coffee shop, unbeknown to his superiors, is now becoming increasingly rare.
With applications installed in smartphones, companies can easily track their employees' locations to ensure proper use of company time.
There has even been a lawsuit in which an employee claimed that such surveillance violated the right to privacy.
"I know you were at a convenience store at about 1 p.m. yesterday. Then you went to a family restaurant."
A 28-year-old executive of a management company for self-service gas stations sometimes speaks to his employees in this manner.
In January the Tokyo-based company provided smartphones to all of its 20 employees who regularly visit customers. As each smartphone is installed with an app that transmits its location to a specified terminal using the Global Positioning System, the company can easily find out where each employee is at any given time, often down to the names of buildings.
Many of the company's employees travel directly from home to off-site locations, then return home at day's end without ever having to visit their home office. The company had no choice but to trust the self-filed reports of such employees detailing their work itineraries.
"They initially complained, saying, 'Don't you trust us?' or 'I hate feeling like I'm being monitored by the company.' But I guess they've gotten used to it now," said the executive. The app costs only 1,000 yen a month for each smartphone. "It deters loafing around," the executive said.
A 34-year-old salesperson of a consultancy firm in Tokyo is required to carry a tablet computer with a similar app with him during work hours. He said: "I don't have a problem with it, because I work hard. But is this the life of a salaried worker?"