Given that technology has ever increased the capacity for employers, business owners, and direct bosses to monitor their employees, it has paved the way for corporations to be able to keep tabs on their people. This paper outlines the technologies used in employee monitoring.
From content filtering and blocking, to listening to ports used by the programs employees use on a daily basis, current technology is a hyper-upgrade to the past practices of monitoring phone calls, mechanical keystroke counters (cyclometers), and other such formerly crude measures to keep tabs on employee activity. Since employee communication and Internet/computer use could be avenues for abuse, employers are now taking steps to create these monitoring measures in order to maintain order and smooth operations. Though seemingly intrusive to privacy, measures like these may actually prevent office abuses like coworker to coworker sexual harassment acts.
Practices that aid in the move to monitor employee computer and Internet use include, as mentioned, content filtering and blocking through firewalls, port listening through remote desktop surveillance, and application monitoring through screenshot-based documentation, among others.
Fears of privacy infringement have been addressed, owing to laws that have been put into place to combat the abuse of monitoring practices by the employers. Guidelines, such as the “Electronic Communications Privacy Act”, a federal law passed in 1986, stating: “ECPA prohibits employers from deliberately eavesdropping on purely personal conversations that an employee may have at work. ECPA does not, however, prevent the employer from eavesdropping on business-related conversations, or protect purely personal communications that occur through means other than the spoken word (such as E-mail),” have been put into place by the U.S government, in order to ensure that monitoring practices are fair for both employee and employer. The welfare of the company must be upheld, but not at the expense of the rights of the employee.
The bottom line is, employers should make sure that they play an active, discerning role in the process of employee monitoring. The researchers have recognized that while the tools for employee monitoring abound, and are developing in increasingly sophisticated ways, the final result would be incumbent on how these tools were used by the employers. A judicious manner of usage will ensure that the employee will not be alienated or feel entitled to rebel; for an overly lax manner of usage will render such tools useless, while an overly zealous way of using monitoring and imposing stringent disciplinary measures may foster a hostile work environment.
The next frontier in employee monitoring appears to lie in how to make it less and less obtrusive, and more sophisticated in that it will be the least humanly-detectable as possible. Much so that employees would be able to work unimpeded, and employers would be able to monitor them in the best way possible, with the least detection from the employees’ end.