Stories about government surveillance are disturbing because of the constitutional issues they raise, But what about employers who conduct surveillance on workers? It’s become a big issue with more people working from home, as some companies have demanded remote workers use all manner of surveillance software.
The reason? To make sure people are actually working. But it gets very creepy, very quickly:
The adoption of [facial recognition] technology coincides with an increase in companies’ use of more traditional monitoring software, which can track an employee’s computer keystrokes, take screenshots and in some cases record audio or video while they are working from home. Sometimes, this is done without their knowledge, which means companies have the potential to gain access to employees’ private details like banking or health information.
Workers have little power to control how and when they’re being monitored, especially if they are using work-issued devices. Experts advise workers to assume they are being monitored if they’re in the office or using company equipment and recommend that they read the fine print in contracts.
The rationales coming from the front office are laughably bad:
Companies say the tracking offers a critical way to ensure their employees are staying productive and telling the truth about how much they work when their bosses are many miles away. Some employers have voiced concerns that, without the monitoring, their workers might cut corners or pursue multiple jobs simultaneously, depriving them of the focus and labor they need to stay competitive in the remote-work era.
That sounds a lot more like a middle manager justifying his job that anything else. But is this stuff legal?
“If it’s a company device, you have zero expectation of privacy,” [said attorney Marta Manus]. “If it’s a personal device, as long as there are clear policies in place in favor of monitoring for work purposes, the law is going to permit it.”
Bottom line assume you’re being monitored…especially if you’re using company hardware on company time.