Big Brother software: any privacy issues?

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal, discusses small businesses purchasing computer surveillance software to monitor workers’ use of technology and the Internet.  Given the statistics about people viewing Facebook at work for recreational reasons, the fact that workers can be doing all kinds of things with their computers, including viewing pornography, moonlighting for another company, cyber stalking and so much more, there certainly is a strong case for monitoring employees use of their company computers, phones and other mobile devices.

What about privacy rights?

Its worth noting that the Supreme Court, in the widely read Quon case where an employee was exposed for using his pager for private texting, didn’t deny that the employee had a reasonable right to privacy over the texts he paid for even if he used the pager provided by his employer (The City of Ontario).  What about an employee being spied on by surveillance software?  Might that person have a reasonable expectation that an employer wouldn’t spy on them without notice?  I think an employer is well-served by putting employees on notice about the possibility of surveillance.

What if Everyone’s Doing It?

What if an employer discovers that the most productive employees are no different than the less productive employees in how much they use social networking?  Should an employer clearly state how its using such surveillance software? That its using the software to detect illegal or unethical use of technology by employees not merely track Facebook use?  Increasingly, employees with laptops and mobile devices use technology around the clock. For employees who are working at night or on the weekend, how should the employer handle their recreational use at those times?  Insist employees use personal machines to check their Facebook profiles?

Workplace Revolution

Technology has created a double-edge sword for workers and management.  On the one hand, employees are given the tools so they can be responsive to work demands late into the evenings and on the weekends.  On the other hand, employees have tools to enjoy social networking and other pleasures of the Internet while working or not.  This suggests that employers need to get back to basics – making sure that employees are properly managed so that its clear whether they are productive or not.  Why subject productive employees to morale-deadening restrictions on their use of the Internet?  If an employee’s performance is slipping, he or she is missing deadlines or doing sloppy work, that is the time to investigate. Even in the Facebook culture, that truth hasn’t changed.

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: