Is my boss secretly watching me while I telecommute? Technologies allow superiors to spy on their employees, which is evolving in the United States but is much regulated by law in France, where the unions are vigilant.
From the “connected” light in work email to spyware there is no shortage of ways to find out if teams are working.
When the latter are installed on employees’ computers, they can be avoided thanks to technologies such as recording keystrokes or screenshots sent to superiors every five minutes.
Lockdowns have boosted the operations of companies specializing in this field worldwide. One of them, American Hubstaff, claims that its website has nearly 600,000 active customers worldwide. However, in France, this software is illegal because it does not comply with data protection regulations.
In this field, Javier Delporte, director of research at the National Commission for IT and Liberties (CNIL), recalls that “employers have a responsibility to inform employees” that they are responsible for ensuring personal protection in France. Information. And in their use “all this is proportional”.
In these devices, for example, “access filtering to specific websites, for security reasons, the employee should not be inclined towards systematic verification of frequently visited sites.” Delporte recalled.
“Complaints about remote computer monitoring tools are very rare,” CNIL notes. In 2021, employees filed “less than ten” complaints on the matter with the French personal data police.
Javier Delport says most of the complaints (“over 80%)” are related to “traditional video surveillance” in the workplace and not a malicious use of spyware or webcam secretly turned on.
Unions have spyware secrets in their eyes, designed to make employees unrecognizable. “These tools are very inappropriate and discreet, and some people will never know they are looking at them,” said Sophie Bennett, general secretary of the executive union.
It also triggers traditional surveillance methods, such as premature calls from superiors or blaming employees when employees do not appear to be “connected” during work hours.
For Bertrand Mahe, another national trade union representative, the “temptation” to spy on his teams reflects, above all, failed management. “There are definitely abuses on the part of employees, but they are just as rare as in management,” he says.
The trade unionist relates to the scope of the “surveillance culture”, which is common in his view of small companies due to the small size of the workforce and lack of awareness of the law.
However, according to Bertrand Mahe, all methods that allow an employee to verify that he is concentrating on his work are misleading, and he emphasizes that “the relationship between the existence of hours and efficiency has not been proven.”
“Employee control involves negative productivity and above all risks transfer the manager’s stress to his teams,” he assures us. For him, it was a practice against the “increased productivity” of employees put forward by spyware developers.