Working from Home? Your Boss May Be Watching You

Source: warrengoldswain - 123RF

The coronavirus pandemic has forced about a third of U.S. workers to do their jobs from home. In turn, companies are ramping up the use of software to monitor what their employees do all day.

NPR reports that some employers are tracking their workers via mouse movements and keyboard strokes while they work remotely.

One particular employer had their staff download an app to their phones to keep tabs on their whereabouts during work hours, believing the tracking software would improve the team’s productivity and efficiency. 

A Minnesota marketing company has started using software that downloads videos of employees’ screens while they work. It also can enable a computer’s webcam to take a picture of the employee every 10 minutes.

An employee at the company told NPR, “If you’re idle for a few minutes, if you go to the bathroom or whatever, a pop-up will come up and it’ll say, ‘You have 60 seconds to start working again or we’re going to pause your time,’ ” the woman said.

That meant stepping away from her computer briefly could cut into her pay.

For bosses, tracking technology is taking the place of a manager’s eyes. 

Workers are wondering whether this is legal.

While the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, employers are not running afoul of any federal laws by tracking what their workers are doing all day through surveillance software.

Also, workers are fully aware of and agree to be tracked, so it’s not as though you’re unknowingly being spied upon.

There is the option to opt out and risk losing your job or go on unpaid leave until the pandemic is over.

Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy nonprofit, says, “Once the employer has made the investment in acquiring and installing the software, it’s not likely that they’re going to remove it. This has for a long time been true, but maybe now more than ever it’s safe to assume that everything you’re doing is being watched and tracked by your employer.”