Employee Monitoring – you really are being watched!

, ,

It is quite possible that your emails are being read by someone, or your phone calls are being listened to by someone or someone might be tracking your use of internet. No, it is not some foreign spy. It is not even your ex. It is your employer. She does not even have to tell you that she is doing it.
The employers are able to monitor the workers legally, in whatever way they like. They are able to login and review the computer activity if they own the computer. Tracking internet use is the most common method of monitoring employees. According to the survey which was released by the ePolicy Institute and American Management Association 66% of the companies monitor the internet activities of their employees. What are the companies looking for? They look for frequent visits to game sites, sexually explicit websites, and social networks such as Facebook during the office time. About one third of the people who monitored their employees said that they had fired an employee for surfing the web inappropriately.
Some of the companies monitor their employees, by tracking keystrokes, by reading emails and by reviewing files on their computer in order to make sure that they are staying loyal. The leaks of trade secrets and confidential information are legitimate concerns of the employers. Many employers will put great amount of effort in order to ensure that the employees are not using the computers of the company for passing information to the outside sources.

Employee monitoring

How is it done?

Mostly the employers use some software which is directly loaded on the workstations of employees. Some applications, like Websense Enterprise 5.1 are used to monitor entire enterprises internet traffic. Many software’s are available which can be easily purchased by individuals or companies. The programs like the Spector Pro are able to store logs of the Keystrokes and POP and SMTP session, instant messages, screenshots and the URLs which are visited on the individual computers.
There are only 2 states, Connecticut and Delaware, where employers are required to notify their employees of the monitoring. But most of the employers do alert their employees regarding surveillance. It is to avoid ethical and the legal boundaries which surround the electronic privacy of employees in workplace. About 83% of the employers, who said that they monitor the employees, said that they do inform the employees that they are being monitored.
But not all companies inform their employees. In 2006, Hewlett Packard hired some private investigators in order to find source of the information leaks. Legal tactics were used by them like sending some fake emails which contained hidden software for tracking, digging through the trash and tailing those journalists who communicated with the HP employees. But they crossed legal boundary by using pretexting, or by posing as another person to get the phone records. As a result Chairman of the HP and 6 board members gave their resignations or they were fined. This whole incident brought the issue of monitoring employees to lime light. Email monitoring is particularly tricky. The employers can see the old email. However monitoring the emails in the real time is legally a grey area.

How do you know?

In case you are using a computer which is owned by your company, it is likely that you are being monitored. Unless you are using the encrypted email, it is better that you avoid using the work email for the personal correspondence. In case it is not doable, then you should real all emails before you send to someone else, and think that how the boss will react in case she or he reads it.
In most of the cases you will be able to detect the monitoring software in the same way as you are able to detect other spyware. The application firewall’s like McAfee or Norton are able to detect unauthorized applications on the computer. In case your employer is monitoring you, it is likely that the IT department installed monitoring application and they have set up the rules in order to allow application to keep working with the firewall while it remains invisible in background. Some of the antispyware programs are able to detect and remove key loggers. In case you install some program like the Counter Spy V@, you will probably be able to know if you are being monitored.
In case spyware scan is not showing anything and you still have suspicion, you can look for the suspicious processes running on your computer. It can be hard weeding out normal processes from foreign ones, unless invasive program makes some obvious process or folder. Some of the monitoring software such as Elite Keylogger, use rootkit techniques which will result in you not even seeing its files or processes. In order to see list of the processes which are running on the computer, you should check the task manager which you can access by hitting Ctrl – Alt – Del. You might just get lucky in case you are quite familiar with the process of your computer, or if program uses some obvious name.
In case you find out that you are being monitored, you may be able to take the legal actions again the employer. ECPA (Electronic Communication Privacy Act 1986) gives the only legal limits for surveillance in the work place. It prohibits the employer from deliberately secretly listening the personal conversations. ECPA doesn’t protect any type of communications except spoken words, so all actions of yours including personal emails are most likely subjected to the review by the employer.

Other places where you are being watched:

Many companies before and even after hiring, Google their employees in order to have a check on personal lives. Your hobbies, address, criminal history and credit reports can be seen online. According to 2007 AMA survey, about 12% companies monitor blogosphere in order to look at the stuff being written about them and another 10% monitor different social networks. It is common sense that you do not post anything on internet which you would not like your employer to see.
The monitoring of employees is not restricted to their workstations and the internet. 45% of the employers monitor the time spent and the number called by employees on the company phone and about 16% record the phone conversations. About 9% of the employees monitor the voicemail messages of their employees. Most of employers notify their employees of the phone (about 84%) and the voice mails (about 73%) monitoring. It is required by ECPA that the employers do not monitor the phone calls which are personal, but in order to be on safe side, it is better to use cell phone.
Approximately 48% companies which were surveys used video monitoring as counter violence, sabotage and theft measure. But only about 7% companies used the video surveillance in order to track the performance of the employees. Most of the employers about 78% notify their employees of the antitheft video surveillance. Similarly 89% of the employers notify their employees about the video monitoring related to performance.
Those employers who use the GPS for tracking the whereabouts of the employees are in small numbers. Only about 8% of the employers GPS for tracking the company vehicles and about 3% used the GPS for monitoring the cell phones. Less than 1% of the employers used GPS in order to monitor the employee Smartcards/ID.