Bringing Your Work Home: What Does That Mean For Privacy?
By André Carmo
January 12, 2022
People in office jobs used to hear about the risks of bringing your work home. Today, millions have literally brought their work to their homes, and most people love it.
All this working from home doesn’t mean your boss isn’t keeping an eye on you. A number of companies sell tracking software that allow organizations to monitor their employees. How much time do you spend typing or moving your mouse, for example?
About 60% of large US companies now monitor this sort of data for team members working from their homes.
What else can these surveillance tools do? Well, a lot actually. They can monitor the subject in your emails, your browser’s search results, a negative comment about the employer, or a search result for another job. They can grab screenshots of your computer, record your voice or even take random photos of you during work hours.
Under U.S. law, a company can monitor employee communication, so long as it’s part of the job’s “normal course”. Slack, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams are all tools that a company can monitor to know when you’re using them at home for work. Tracking software can be used by companies to remotely record your video conference calls. Family and friends that happen to be in the background speaking or visible on camera can be recorded. And that data can, obviously, be stored and monitored by the companies.
If you’re using your own computer at home then tough luck, because by default your personal email and browsing history can be monitored. Yes, tracking software should be configured to ignore your personal email accounts, but that’s usually up to the IT department installing the tracking software, not the user.
I’m sure there are many good reasons for companies to collect data when people work from home. Cyber security protocols are the clearest example. But what are the consequences when people feel that they are under surveillance? This type of employee data tracking has been used by large companies to make decisions about job performance and employee engagement. What about companies operating in jurisdictions or authoritarian countries around the world that do not enforce unethical monitoring of employees?
We hope that most companies don’t spend time spying on their employees working from home. But the fact is that they can and some do.
At iVirtual, we are helping to build the Trust Economy by empowering people with the ability to create their own terms and conditions. So whether you bring your work home with you or just want to make sure that companies you support do not abuse surveillance and data collection, sign up to our community. We will keep you posted on when you can start building your Terms & Conditions with YouOwnYou.