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Online worker surveillance: are you being watched?

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More workers, including contractors, are likely to be watched via their online devices over the next three years, research has found. But monitoring software is backfiring on companies in more ways than one, especially if you download certain software on your personal laptop.

A Morning Consult survey found that many tech workers who said they aren’t currently monitored at work are inclined to quit their jobs if their companies used various workplace surveillance methods, which includes keystroke tracking, the ability for employers to remotely access computers and take screenshots or even audio or video.

See ya!

Roughly half of those unmonitored workers said they would resign if their employer used facial recognition technology to monitor their productivity or if their company remotely recorded audio or video of them, said the report. These workers were also more likely than not to say they would quit if their companies tracked their keystrokes or took screenshots of their computer screens.

The report found that the use of surveillance technology “looms large” for tech employees, both in their current jobs and in future opportunities. “Of those who said their companies use various forms of the technology, around half said they plan to leave their current role because of its use. In particular, about 2 in 3 said they’d resign over the use of facial recognition to monitor productivity,” said the report.

The reluctance to embrace workplace surveillance technology extends to future job opportunities, too, it was revealed. More than half of those surveyed in the technology sector said they would not accept a role in their field if their prospective employer used one of the listed techniques, while fewer than 2 in 5 said they would.

Worker tracking is on the rise

Market research company Gartner Inc. said last year that the number of large firms expected to use tools to keep track of employees will hit 70% within the next three years. In the UK, employers or hiring companies must inform workers if they are being monitored.

In the US, it’s a different story. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Stored Communications Act allow firms to track employee activities without prior notification, although the scope of the allowable oversight varies quite a bit from state-to-state, a Brookings report said. However, many rules in the US governing workplace surveillance are at the state level and there is wide variation in what jurisdictions allow and the legal precedents that govern such actions, said th report.

If you happen to work for a company that uses keylogger software on company equipment, whatever you do, don’t log into personal accounts, especially those with sensitive personal information about your health or finances. The company and other employees will then have access to that information.

In the Brookings report, Matt Pinsker, an adjunct professor of homeland security and criminal justice at Virginia Commonwealth University, “as a general rule, employees have little expectation of privacy while on company grounds or using company equipment”.

Research has found that surveillance can bring out the inner rebel or deviance in workers, whereby it wouldn’t have if they were not monitored at all. Why is this the case? The researchers of the study suggested that employee perceptions of high justice will backfore on employers and turn to deviance. The study said, “monitoring paradoxically creates conditions for more (not less) deviance by diminishing employees’ sense of agency, thereby facilitating moral disengagement via displacement of responsibility.”

Gartner said that by 2023, 10% of workers tracked by AI-driven systems will attempt to trick those systems. Whit Andrews, a vice president and analyst at Gartner, said in a statement accompanying the Morning Consult research that fooling AI could be “in the interest of lower workloads, better pay or simply spite,” while others could view tricking the tools as “more of a game to be won than disrespecting a metric that management has a right to know.”

Before you take that job or download that software…

There are many things to consider when working with a new client, that now includes questions about monitoring and surveillance. It’s one thing to have cameras on you if you work in a high security environment, but another if you are not. Many bosses would feel uncomfortable if their workers could monitor their every keystroke or have access to their audioor computer screen, so any understanding client will not use surveillance in a counterproductive manner.

You may want to find out if the company uses surveillance technology of any kind; anything that you may find stressful or intrusive, such as audio listening, which could be upsettling if you ever work from home.

So, before you download a new software make sure it is not gaining access to anything private on your laptop that you would not otherwise share with others. Even Slack, which is useful, has monitoring tools, including which website you visited before you logged on to Slack, according to a Wired report.

Like we say here at The Freelance Informer, Be informed, be Freelancer Informed!

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