By Mark Carey
If you are reading this article on your company provided computer or device, your employer is watching you and taking notes. Stop now and go to a personal device to read further. No really, I am not kidding! Your employer may even be watching you access your bank account and social media accounts. They may even be ease dropping on your conversations with your spouse, physician, therapist and attorney. Wait, what? Can they do that?
Wake up everyone, the technology is here in abundance. According to a Gartner Survey in 2018, “22% of organizations worldwide use employee-movement data, 17% are monitoring work-computer-usage data, and 16% are using Microsoft Outlook-or-calendar-usage data.” There are algorithms for just about any type of covert surveillance on your work-space. Companies know how long you are logged in, how many emails you send, how many phone calls you make, whether you check social media on your device etc. According to an interview from MarketWatch.com with Ifeoma Ajunwa, an assistant professor at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School, there are three ways employers monitor employees, “location tracking through a company-issued phone’s GPS or an employee ID badge, communication monitoring through email monitoring, Slack messages or keystroke logging, and wellness programs that track health data, including sleep patterns.” What does the future look like and how can you protect yourself. Whether your employer’s surveillance upon your privacy while at work is legal, that does not necessarily lend a straight forward answer.
Does Your Company Have An Employer Monitoring Policy?
The first thing you need to do is check whether your employer maintains a written policy in any HR Portal or office poster that provides notice that your employer is monitoring and recording everything you do at work. If so, forget your freedoms under the U.S. Constitution- well you did not have any to begin with once you stepped into the private workplace. Yes, there are other statutes that provide additional rights, but you get the point.
How to Protect Against An Invasion of Privacy At Work?
The following suggestion is what I tell everyone, take your communications “off-line”. Never communicate personal or confidential information using a work related computer or device. Resist the temptation to check your private email on a work computer; yes, they can read your passionate comments to your spouse or your comments to a co-worker about blowing the whistle on the employer. If your employer utilizes video surveillance, then move to a location where you cannot be seen. I won’t suggest the bathroom because I heard rumors that employers record there too, even though that’s illegal. Workplace privacy means you believe you would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, i.e. the bathroom. Or better yet, do what employees at Bridgewater Associates do when they really want to talk privately- they leave the campus and go to a nearby restaurant, diner or coffee shop. At Bridgewater, every employee conversation, email, etc. is openly recorded in this Orwellian Big Brother is Watching You environment. Scary yes, but very, very real.
Employers Use Keystroke Monitoring Software
Sorry, but it’s technical. According to a recent Business.com Survey of the best 2019 employee monitoring software products, “Employee monitoring software can track employee web and application use, monitor chats and keystrokes, or filter specific types of online content making them inaccessible to employees…our top picks for employee monitoring software are Teramind, SentryPC, ActivTrak, ContectProtect and SoftActivity. For example, the Teramind software makes this ominous description about what the software can do, “this application can monitor your employees undetected, or it can run in transparent mode, which lets employees see that they’re being tracked. You can monitor employee activity in real time or set the software to collect snapshots to review later. This means administrators don’t need to spend time watching employees; instead automated notifications alert them whenever an employee violates your organization’s rules and policies”.
What is Keystroke Logging?
Although I don’t normally cite to Wikipedia, I will just to help explain what Keystroke Logging is. According to Wikipedia, keystroke logging “is the action of recording (logging) the keys struck on a keyboard, typically covertly, so that person using the keyboard is unaware that their actions are being monitored. Data can then be retrieved by the person operating the logging program. A keylogger can be either software or hardware”. As to the legality of this practice, Wikipedia points us to keylogger.org for further information, but the link only reveals more product reviews.
Is Employer Surveillance Legal?
Well, the short answer is yes. But if you want to read a whole lot more, check out this Article from 2016 presented by Jackson Lewis, P.C. attorneys to the American Bar Association in Washington, D.C.
You should be paranoid, it will save your butt!
If you want learn more about this subject, please call our employment attorneys and set up an appointment (203) 255-4150 or email Mark Carey at firstname.lastname@example.org.