|The Walls Have Ears|
A growing number of companies are using technology to monitor their employees' emails, phone calls, and movements. Here's everything you need to know:
How are employees being tracked?
In almost every way. If you work on an office computer, your bosses can not only legally monitor your company email and internet browser history, they can also log keystrokes to check your productivity and even see what you type on private services like Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter. If you have a work cellphone, your employer can pinpoint your precise location through GPS. A survey from the American Management Association found that at least 66 percent of U.S. companies monitor their employees' internet use, 45 percent log keystrokes, and 43 percent track employee emails. And office workers aren't the only ones being spied on.
Who does the actual monitoring?
It's all done automatically: Software programs scan employees' email accounts and computer files and alert supervisors to anything inappropriate. What constitutes inappropriate, of course, is up to each company.
What else are they looking for?
Some companies search for evidence that employees might be thinking about quitting. They check for obvious signs such as Google searches for headhunters and job-listings sites, but also track subtler signifiers of discontent, such as employees who refer to the company as "they" in emails rather than the more inclusive "we." Bosses might then try to entice these employees to stay, or take steps to ensure that if they do leave, they take no confidential data or client lists with them. But it's a tricky balance — if employees discover their boss has been spying on Google searches they thought were private, office morale can plummet. "Right at the heart of all of this is trust," says Ken Oehler of Aon Hewitt, a human-capital consulting firm. "What sort of message does it send that they need to monitor [workers'] desktops?"
Can employees stop this tracking?
Generally, no. Most employee contracts give management free rein to do what it wants with data gathered from office-issued equipment, but some surveilled workers are fighting back. A former sales executive at wire-transfer firm Intermex filed an unfair dismissal lawsuit against the firm earlier this year, alleging that she was fired after she uninstalled an app on her work cellphone that tracked her whereabouts 24/7.
"Even if your boss says you're not being monitored," says Nancy Flynn, founder of the Ohio-based consultancy ePolicy Institute, you should "just assume you're being monitored."
Listening in at the water cooler
If you find the idea of your boss reading your emails creepy, how about having your location, tone of voice, and conversation length monitored throughout the working day? Boston-based analytics firm Sociometric Solutions has supplied some 20 companies with employee ID badges fitted with microphone, location sensor, and accelerometer. Sociometric Solutions doesn't record conversations or provide employers with individuals' data. Instead, it crunches data and looks at how employee interactions affect performance. At Bank of America call centers, for example, the firm found that workers in tightly knit groups who took breaks together were more productive and less likely to quit.9 Ways Your Employer Can Legally Spy On You
Is Your Boss Spying On You?
How to tell if your Boss is Spying on You - Forbes
Your boss may be spying on you and chances are you’ll never know it. From keystroke loggers to hidden cameras, around the country use different tactics to keep tabs on their employees, all of which are perfectly legal if you’re using the company’s gear.
According to experts, believe they are justified in using these big brother type tactics to prevent against things like lost productivity and leaks of company secrets.
“There is no more employee loyalty. Employees are not loyal to the companies they work for and employers don’t feel the sense of a long term relationship with the employees,” says Mark Jaffe, president of Wyatt & Jaffe, the executive search firm. The tough job market has prompted people to stay in jobs longer and take ones they normally wouldn’t, creating an environment of unsatisfied workers which isn’t lost on the employer, he says. “Companies feel they need to guard against duplicity, wrong doing or disloyalty,” says Jaffe.
Employer spying tactics vary
So how are the bosses spying? Since employers own all the computer equipment, they have the right to monitor email, instant messages, documents and the websites employees visit. The companies can even listen in on phone conversations and put cameras in work areas as long as they own it all.
Employees aren’t void of rights
Although employers have the right to monitor workers, the employees also have privacy rights. That means a boss couldn’t sift through his underlings email without a business justification. What’s more the employer needs consent from its workers to monitor their behavior in the workplace.With many applications moving to the Web, what the boss can look at is also getting murkier. According to King of Avvo, an employee may be using a company computer to check his email, but is going to his private gmail account. Not to mention that work doesn’t stop at the office. Many people are using their own devices after hours to conduct business, which is why King says excess monitoring isn’t a good idea mainly because it sends the wrong message that the employer doesn’t trust its employees.
How to protect yourself
If you work for a company that you think is spying on you, the best defense is to stop any behavior that could cause you problems at work. Don’t send personal emails from your company account, take part in inappropriate instant messages or spend office hours checking Facebook or playing Angry Birds.If you have to conduct non-related work during office hours, do it on your own smartphone or tablet computer. If that’s not an option, send the email via your gmail or Yahoo account.
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