Chapter 21. The Dangers of Workplace Surveillance

The greatest danger to your privacy may not come from the Internet, from identity thieves, or from government agencies.

It may come from your boss.

Workplace surveillance has become extremely common in the United States, and it is becoming more common every day. In particular, employers monitor employee Internet and computer use, although new technologies help employers monitor employees in many other ways as well.

Monitoring employees in the workplace has become practically ubiquitous according to a recent study done by the American Management Association (AMA) and The ePolicy Institute. A 2005 study found the following:

  • 76% of employers monitor their employees' web surfing activities.

  • 66% of employers use software to block employees from accessing inappropriate websites.

  • 55% of employers store and review employee email.

  • 51% of employers monitor their employees using video cameras, primarily to counter theft, violence, and sabotage, they say. This number rose from 33% in 2001.

  • 50% of employers store and review employee personal work files.

  • 36% of employers track the content employees view as well as monitor their keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard.

There are a variety of reasons employers monitor employees. One is the fear of litigation. Some courts have ruled that if an employee visits inappropriate websites with sexual material and other employees come across him doing it, that it could be considered a form of workplace sexual harassment. Unless the employer finds a way to stop employees from visiting sexually explicit sites, the company could be sued.

Employers also worry that employees may spend too much time visiting websites that have nothing to do with work, such as eBay or retail websites.

When it comes to email, the law weighs in as well. Email frequently comes up as evidence in lawsuits, and employers are often required by law to keep employee email for a certain number of years.

Additionally, employers want to cut down on fraud, theft, and inappropriate behavior, and often workplace surveillance is the best way to do that.

But many people believe workplace surveillance has gone too far and unnecessarily invades people's privacy, is used to intimidate employees, and is used as a tactic to fight against unions being established. These people worry that Big Brother has come to the workplace and that employers are invading people's privacy in ways that might be illegal.

Whichever side of the debate you come down on, there's no doubt that workplace surveillance is here to stay and is becoming more common by the day. Internet surveillance, the use of video cameras, the use of phone tapping, and even the use of global positioning systems (GPS) will be used more and more in the future. People should recognize that, in their workplace, there most likely is no privacy.

How Personal & Internet Security Work
How Personal & Internet Security Works
ISBN: 0789735539
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 161

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