The services sound harmless most of the time. Some suppliers refer to the software they offer as “workplace analytics” or “automatic time tracking.” Others sell to companies or data breaches. Together, these tools will be referred to as “bossware.” In this industry guide we will explore the world of tracking employees.
Bossware, although intended to benefit employers, compromises the security and privacy of employees by secretly recording every keystroke and click, gathering data for legal purposes, and employing other snooping features that go well beyond what is reasonable and required to oversee an employee base.
Employee monitoring is much more common, and it might be able to see the monitoring software in visible monitoring. They might be able to choose to “clock in” and “clock out,” which refers to turning the surveillance on or off. Of course, an employee’s employer will be able to see that they have disabled monitoring. For instance, employees may be able to remove specific screenshots from their work session using Time Doctor. Workers only receive credit for the time they are monitored because removing a screenshot also removes the related work time.
Most companies that create software for visible monitoring also develop products that attempt to blend in with the people they are watching. Bossware from companies like Controlio and others is made to be as challenging to find and eliminate as possible. From a technical standpoint, these products are identical to stalkerware. To stop employee antivirus software from detecting and blocking the activity of the monitoring software, some businesses even mandate that employers set up antivirus software specifically before installing their products.
How Common Is Bossware?
Controlio might take the lead in many bossware options available in the market. The business of worker surveillance is not new, and it was already fairly significant before the start of the world pandemic. Although its prevalence is hard to gauge, bossware has increased as more employees are compelled to work from home due to COVID-19. The company that owns InterGuard, Awareness Technologies, asserted that its customer base had increased by more than 300% in the initial weeks following the outbreak.
What Is the Data Used For?
Bossware, including Controlio, gathers copious amounts of data under the guise of productivity enhancement. Yet, the usage and storage of this information raise concerns about privacy breaches, and misuse, and create an atmosphere ripe for distrust between employers and employees.
Unfortunately, many use cases involve employers misusing their power over employees. Possibly, the most extensive category of products we examined is intended for “productivity monitoring” or “enhanced time tracking,” which involves documenting all the tasks employees perform to ensure they are exerting sufficient effort. Certain companies present their products as possible advantages for supervisors and employees alike.
What Can You Do?
Under current U.S. law, employers possess too much freedom when installing surveillance software on their own devices. Furthermore, nothing stops them from forcing employees to install software on their computers (as long as the monitoring is deactivated after work hours). Regulations governing what employers can and cannot do vary by state. However, employees frequently have few legal options regarding invasive monitoring software.
That needs to and can be altered. State and federal legislators must create safeguards for employees against their employers and enact laws protecting consumer data privacy. To begin with:
- Employee surveillance should be appropriate and necessary even on devices owned by the employer.
- Tools should gather as little data as possible and refrain from sifting through passwords and private messages.
- Employees ought to know precisely what information their managers are gathering.
- To sue employers who violate these statutory privacy protections, employees also need a private right of action.
Finally, employees might hesitate to speak up about being surveilled in a time of record joblessness for fear of losing their jobs. It is not a choice between being jobless and being subjected to annoying and excessive monitoring.
Many employees won’t feel confident enough to speak up, or they might think that their employers are secretly watching them. If they’re not aware of the extent of surveillance, they should take into account that work devices, including passwords, private messages, and web browsing history could collect everything. They should try not to use work-related devices for personal purposes. Additionally, employees may be able to request a different, work-specific device from their employers if they are asked to install monitoring software on their devices. This way, confidential data can be more easily segregated.
Is Controlio legal?
Controlio operates within a legal gray area, and its use largely depends on local laws and company policies. While some monitoring might be permissible for work-related purposes, employers must inform employees about surveillance practices and respect their privacy rights.
Can I refuse to use Controlio if my employer insists on it?
Your concerns about privacy and personal boundaries are valid. While refusing might raise complications, discussing your apprehensions with your employer could lead to a compromise that respects both productivity needs and privacy.
How can I protect my privacy while using Controlio or similar bossware?
Consider having open discussions with your employer about the extent and purpose of the monitoring. Additionally, explore privacy tools and practices like encrypted communication, using separate devices for personal use, and understanding the software’s settings to control data collection where possible.