By:Andrew R. McIlvaine | July 22, 2019
Are Companies Going Too Far in their Tech Surveillance?
New tools allow companies to put their workers under the microscope like never before.
Meet “Chet.” When Chet woke up at 6:58am today to check his work email on his mobile phone, his employer noted it. On his way to work, Chet stopped by his favorite coffee shop and, while there, accessed the shop’s free Wi-Fi—his employer noted that, too. Upon entering his office building, a Bluetooth device in his ID badge connects to a sensor nearby, which tracks his movement at work throughout the day. On his computer, his employer not only monitors his web traffic but also tracks how many emails he sends and where he sends them. At a meeting that day, Chet can open an app on his phone that records the meeting and provides an analysis of participation. Software on Chet’s computer takes regular screenshots of whatever he’s working on so his employer can keep track of how he’s spending his time.
Chet’s not a real person—he’s a fictional character created by editors at the Wall Street Journal as part of a package of stories on tech surveillance. However, in the near future, Chet’s typical workday could become the national norm.
Employers in the U.S. have greater legal latitude to monitor their workers than in many other countries, particularly in Europe. And companies don’t always have to tell workers what they’re tracking, either. The WSJ piece cites a 2018 Gartner survey which finds that 22% of employers say they collect “employee-movement” data (such as that gathered by Bluetooth-enabled ID tags made by vendors such as Humanyze, which are designed to help companies measure collaboration and teamwork among employees). The survey also finds that 17% collect work-computer usage data, 13% collect employee fitness data and 7% monitor the text in employee emails.
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