Is your employer spying on you via your computer?
During the COVID pandemic, we published an article ‘Working remotely doesn’t mean you can’t be watched…’ with the key quote “It may seem obvious, but if you are using an employer’s device, assume you are being monitored.”
Thankfully, the level of global interruption of the COVID pandemic has waned now, and for education staff, that means they are mostly back to ‘face-to-face’ working arrangements.
However, many articles are being published by governments, business leaders and human resource experts discussing the reluctance of some employees to return to work in their office, as against working from home.
In their article for The Conversation: ‘Does your employer have to tell if they’re spying on you through your work computer? Meredith and Holland suggest, “we’re seeing a surge in the use of electronic monitoring and surveillance devices in the workplace. These devices allow managers to “watch over” employees in their absence. This practice raises serious legal and ethical concerns.”
“Electronic monitoring and surveillance technology can capture screenshots of an employee’s computer, record their keystrokes and mouse movements, and even activate their webcam or microphones.”
“On one hand, these “bossware” tools can be used to capture employee and production statistics, providing businesses with useful evidence-based analytics.
The other side is much darker. These devices are indiscriminate. If you’re working from home they can pick up audio and visual images of your private life.
Managers can be sent notifications when data “indicate” an employee is taking breaks or “getting distracted.”
Whilst this all sounds very ‘Big Brother’, under the Surveillance Devices Act 2016 (SA), private activity cannot be recorded or observed in any form or method without the express consent of those persons being observed or recorded.
An employer should review their IT monitoring policies and practices and consider if employee consent must be obtained to lawfully continue monitoring. Implied consent is not sufficient.
So how does this affect IEU members using work computers (or personal computers) for work?
IEU(SA)’s IT Officer, Nicholas Evans, makes these recommendations to you:
- Don’t install any software of this nature on your personal computer
- If it is a work device then check for a surveillance policy or IT usage policy from your employer.
- Try to minimise using work owned IT infrastructure for personal use. This includes using work email addresses for private matters, even if limited use is allowed in your workplace policy.
As noted in our previous article, “whilst it might be convenient to save private information on your work device, in reality, your information is likely to be saved or backed up to an employer’s computer server, giving them full access to any information.”
“As such, gossip or discussions about workers, bosses or employers sent to private email addresses may be accessed and used in legal matters.”
“Best practice is to use your work devices ONLY for work-related activities. Private matters (including online banking or shopping) should be conducted on your private devices.”
If you need advice or assistance, contact your Organiser – 8410 0122 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Working remotely doesn’t mean you can’t be watched… IEU(SA).
The Conversation – Does your employer have to tell if they’re spying on you through your work computer?
Authors: Jacqueline Meredith, Lecturer in Law, Swinburne University of Technology, Peter Holland, Professor in Human Resource Management and Employee Relations, Swinburne University of Technology