Your boss is watching you: Work-from-home leads to more surveillance

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https://www.npr.org/2020/05/13/854014403...rveillance

EXCERPT: . . . 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. Privacy advocates and some workers said they worry that the intensified tracking brought upon by the coronavirus will normalize workplace surveillance and that this type of digital supervision will persist when workers return to offices.

Just ask a woman who works in marketing at a small company in Minnesota. She also spoke to NPR anonymously out of fear her employer would retaliate against her for speaking out. Her employer has started using software called Time Doctor. It 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. [...] That meant stepping away from her computer briefly could cut into her pay.

[...] Critics call this kind of tracking software "tattleware." But Brad Miller, who runs the Connecticut-based company Awareness Technologies, bristles at that description. "If you're not working or doing something wrong, then I guess it will tattle on you, but I don't think that's really how companies that are buying [the software] think of it as," Miller said.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Miller said that Awareness Technologies' business has tripled. Its programs for managers keep a record of every task employees are doing on their computers. Each worker then gets assigned a productivity score. Every employee is ranked accordingly.

[...] Dave Nevogt, the CEO of Hubstaff, said demand has tripled for his company's monitoring software, too. "We have seen a massive increase in the number of people needing our platform," Nevogt told NPR. "Remote work has gotten a huge boost as everyone has been forced to work outside of the office, and we feel like these changes may be here for good."

For bosses, keeping up with worker productivity has always been a give-and-take. But in the office, it is much easier to figure out if someone is doing a job well. Now tracking technology is taking the place of a manager's eyes. Miller said when the software runs on a homebound employee's computer, it gives the worker an added incentive not to slack off.

[...] Intrusive? Maybe. Legal? Probably. ... It may feel intrusive, but it is not illegal, said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy nonprofit. 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, he said. ... And with few legal barriers, employers who turn to this software during the pandemic may choose to keep using it even after work-from-home orders are lifted, he said. (MORE - details)
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