Remote monitoring software enables the user to monitor and sometimes record, everything other users does on their screens. While the US are still doing something very similar with their Stuxnet virus which has gone viral all over the world, I will here show some examples of what employers do to monitor their employees. I covered the ethical aspects of this and why I think it’s very unwise, in my other post: “Cultural differences, work ethic and remote monitoring”.
Various software examples for remote monitoring:
Access Data’s Enterprise
This software can search for unapproved processes, kill processes and do comprehensive logging and reporting. It can access all types of peripherals and networks and monitor user’s network and online access as well as alert on data theft or employee misconduct. (Access Data, 2016)
Access Data’s Enterprise. (Casey, 2011, pp. 248)
Absolute Software’s LoJack
Mostly for information security, this software can be used for tracking by GPS, Wi-Fi or IP geolocation. LoJack allows you to freeze the system remotely and the company equipment can survive a factory reset. It can also remotely erase files, which could be useful for a business. (Purewal, 2012)
Measures productivity by seeing which employees are surfing instead of working, web-site logs and comparison between staff productivity. It allows you to record all files transferred to and from cloud/network/usb, log all keystrokes used and to see videos of the employer writing chats or e-mails. 110 countries are using their software. (Veriato, 2016)
The possibilities of employee monitoring software. (Nord, McCubbins and Nord, 2006)
Is it legal?
The legality of this kind of software depends on the country as well as the situation. According to a case in The European Court of Human Rights in 2016, an employer was in their right to access a company chat log to use as proof in a case regarding unrightful dismissal. (Registrar of the Court, 2016) The court specified that the company had not allowed personal use of the company assets: if this was allowed, the case might have been different.
In Norway, continuous surveillance is illegal and any monitoring checks for files/e-mails at all needs to be justified. (NDPA, 2016a) A company is not allowed to read the chat logs of their employees. Should the employer have reasons for a check to be made, the employee should be given a warning as to why the employer wants to do this and information about the employees’ rights. The user shall be given notice when such a check has been performed, including information on exactly which e-mails and files has been accessed. (NDPA, 2016b)
In the US, constitutional rights to privacy only apply to state actions and does not extend to private-sector employees. There is an Electronic Communications Act but this allows for exceptions if the company owns the tool/service, if usage except ordinary course of business is suspected or if there is a consent to the interception by at least one part of communication. (Nord, McCubbins and Nord, 2006)
Is it wise?
Monitoring employees’ performance, whether via camera, data entry, chat and phone recording, has been found to have significantly negative effects on job attitudes and commitment. (Jeske and Santuzzi, 2015)
I believe the employer has the right to privacy. Of course, there needs to be a professional attitude but if the worker does not deliver results, HR should take action – not monitor user action and provide “punishment”. A good workplace with a feeling of belonging gives satisfied workers and “happy” workplaces are shown to give better results. (Kultgen, 1988, Chan, Gee and Steiner, 2000)
Access Data. (2016) Access Data Enterprise, Network Investigation and Incident Response [Online] Available from: http://accessdata.com/solutions/digital-forensics/ad-enterprise (Accessed: 27.11.2016).
Casey, E. (2011) Digital evidence and computer crime: Forensic science, computers, and the internet. Academic press.
Chan, K. C., Gee, M. V. and Steiner, T. L. (2000) ‘Employee Happiness and Corporate Financial Performance’, Financial Practice and Education, 10 (2), pp.47-52.
Jeske, D. and Santuzzi, A. M. (2015) ‘Monitoring what and how: psychological implications of electronic performance monitoring’, New Technology, Work & Employment, 30 (1), pp.62-78.
Kultgen, J. H. (1988) Ethics and professionalism. University of Pennsylvania Press.
NDPA. (2016a) Arbeidsgiver kan ikke overvåke ansattes chat / Employers can not keep surveillance of employer’s chats (Own translation from Norwegian) [Online] www.datatilsynet.no: The Norwegian Data Protection Authority;. Available from: https://www.datatilsynet.no/Nyheter/2016/Arbeidsgiver-kan-ikke-overvake-ansattes-chat/ (Accessed: 27.11.2016).
NDPA. (2016b) Innsyn i e-post og private filer / Checks into e-mail and private files (Own translation from Norwegian) [Online] The Norwegian Data Protection Authority;. Available from: https://www.datatilsynet.no/Sektor/Arbeidsliv/Innsyn-epost-filer/ (Accessed: 27.11.2016).
Nord, G. D., McCubbins, T. F. and Nord, J. H. (2006) ‘E-Monitoring in the Workplace: PRIVACY, LEGISLATION, AND SURVEILLANCE SOFTWARE’, Commun ACM, 49 (8), pp.73-7.
Purewal, S. J. (2012) ‘For Security, Install Laptop Tracking Software’, PCWorld, 30 (7), pp.89-.
Registrar of the Court. (2016) ‘Monitoring of an employee’s use of the Internet and his resulting dismissal was justified’, [Press Release]. ECHR 013 (2016) http://www.echr.coe.int/: European Court of Human Rights.
Veriato. (2016) Veriato 360, Formerly Known as Spector 360, Employee Monitoring Software [Online] Available from: http://www.veriato.com/products/veriato-360 (Accessed: 27.11.2016).
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/camera-video-camera-video-lens-1680666/, user: WerbeFabrik. CC0 Licence, public domain.