One in five companies admit to spying on remote workers without their knowledge

midian182

Posts: 6,417   +56
Staff member
WTF?! If you’re one of the millions of people who recently found themselves working from home, you might be tempted to take it easy now and again during office hours. If that's sounds familiar, be warned: according to a new report, one in five bosses are monitoring employees’ time-wasting antics without their knowledge.

In a report by Metro, unions warn that employers are taking advantage of Covid-19 restrictions to monitor remote workers covertly. One in five companies has admitted to snooping on staff or is planning to do so in the future.

“We know many employers are investing in tech to micro-manage workers and automate decisions about who to hire, and who to let go. Staff must be properly consulted on the use of surveillance at work and protected from unfair management by algorithm,” Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, told the publication. “As we emerge from this crisis, technology must be used to make working lives better — not to rob people of their dignity.”

The surveillance methods include checking how long it takes employees to read and reply to messages. The most worrying claim is that some bosses are surreptitiously watching staff via their webcams. In addition to the obvious privacy concerns, workers could face unfair disciplinary action.

A YouGov/Skillcast poll of 2,009 companies revealed that 12 percent said they had brought in remote monitoring. In the case of larger firms, that figure jumps to 16 percent, with 8 percent considering the action.

According to TUC research, one in seven employees has seen surveillance increase since they started working from home.

In the UK, companies are allowed to monitor employees without their knowledge “if they suspect they are breaking the law.”

Many tech giants have benefitted from the surge in remote working, and we’ve already seen examples of them pushing the boundaries of privacy. Microsoft, for example, changed its Productivity Score tool following a backlash against the feature's invasiveness.

Image credit: R R

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 4,322   +4,578
#1 My fiance has to log in with her camera / mic. Every now and then her supervisor will pop in on her, but it's easy to see them if they are in the room.

#2 I have to monitor my own employees, but it's easy for me to see what they're doing "live" as they are doing it. As long as the work gets done and productivity stays high, I honestly don't care what they're doing.

I focus on CUSTOMER SERVICE so as long as my customers are happy with their relationship, I have no problems with "work at home".

It even gives me a great excuse as to why I can't give raises.
 
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brucek

Posts: 708   +940
TechSpot Elite
This article is mixing together two very different things.

#1 - Using a video camera to secretly video your bedroom that you sometimes use as an office but that your wife also uses to dress, and storing that video, and likely passing it around the IT department, all sounds like a crime.

#2 - Tracking how long you take to respond to work emails is tracking your work output. This is not "surveillance", this is an employer reviewing your work. And it's sure not secret, in that it should be no surprise to you that the person who took the time to email you was going to notice when they got a response. Of course I'd also agree if this was any sort of primary input into your review it's likely a pretty dumb one (unless you're maybe a 911 email operator lol), but pretty dumb is not at all the same as outright criminal.

My general $0.02 is that employers who have not found better ways to assess their employees, especially now after nearly a year of remote work, must be pretty bad at what they do.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 7,965   +6,731
If the company provides the computer, the camera, the internet link and some compensation for the use of your home, they are free to do whatever they want BUT if any of those is NOT provided by the company, they have put themselves in a tenuous position no matter what any employment agreement or contract says (at this moment in time). While not well known, there have been a number of court cases on this exact matter and the courts have held in favor of the employee. Frankly I was shocked by this but apparently from what I've read, if you are not in the employer's premise they are restricted in different ways than those outside the premise .......
 
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Lionvibez

Posts: 2,203   +1,652
I use all my own equipment for my meetings and the video conference even though I was provided with a work laptop. So they would never be able to spy on me through my equipment. Now the work laptop if they so choose that would be an option except the camera faces a wall all day. And if you work in a environment when your direct report feels they need to do this to you, I would look for another job.
 
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jpuroila

Posts: 285   +155
If the company provides the computer, the camera, the internet link and some compensation for the use of your home, they are free to do whatever they want
Even at their own premises they're hardly free to do whatever they want, let alone if the employee is working at home.
 

Polycount

Posts: 2,789   +571
Staff member
If the company provides the computer, the camera, the internet link and some compensation for the use of your home, they are free to do whatever they want BUT if any of those is NOT provided by the company, they have put themselves in a tenuous position no matter what any employment agreement or contract says (at this moment in time). While not well known, there have been a number of court cases on this exact matter and the courts have held in favor of the employee. Frankly I was shocked by this but apparently from what I've read, if you are not in the employer's premise they are restricted in different ways than those outside the premise .......
Even if they provided all the equipment, I'm not on board with them monitoring me in my own home without my consent. Joining a video call is one thing, but what if people use their bedroom as an office? What if they take a five-minute break to change clothes?

It'd be very creepy to be watched at will, whether it's during work hours or not.
 

orbital

Posts: 19   +14
My laptop camera and microphone are disabled in the device manager.
Completely right, however like 99% of remote-working employees would never do it. So many times I've heard when talking about privacy - "I have nothing to hide" or "this doesn't concern me". No, it concerns you as with or without your knowledge and consent, everyone spies on us and employers are just the "friendly part". The rest are so many (private) contractors whose only aim of existence is scanning or jamming ports, logging DNS queries, recording online activity and profiling by IP, website history and thousands of deeply personalised algorithms. Big corporations can have any of your local Wi-Fi queries or pesonalised online activity (including mobile), including as a part of psychological assessment for a position applied for before the interview, at a flip of a C- or lower level management finger.

So, disabling media devices and firewalling open ports with "private" browsing experience with (geo)location off is the least to start with... But again I am talking to the wall for like 99.99% of everyone who has "nothing to hide" 'cause being ignorant is the sweetest sin...
 
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Avro Arrow

Posts: 794   +906
TechSpot Elite
What some people don't get is that the employees aren't being told that they're being watched. That is what constitutes as spying and in the employee's home, the sanctity of their home's privacy must be observed.
 
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terzaerian

Posts: 472   +604
What some people don't get is that the employees aren't being told that they're being watched. That is what constitutes as spying and in the employee's home, the sanctity of their home's privacy must be observed.
In b4 "muh but it's a private company doing it, not the government, so it's okay"
 
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