5 Ways Your Boss is Spying on You… Legally

By Lee Bellinger / January 9, 2014

Employer Spying at an All-Time High

When it comes to your privacy, you know to protect yourself against identity thieves. And you know to be suspicious of the government.

But what about your boss?

It turns out your employer may be one of the biggest privacy violators in your life. And it isn’t even illegal for them to spy on you.

Employers Take Monitoring Too Far

Employers are taking employee monitoring to new heights. Not too long ago, a family in Suffolk County found themselves at the wrong end of a police raid, purportedly for suspicious Internet searches.

While journalists initially speculated that the raid was the result of NSA spying, it turns out the answer was much simpler. One of the family members had recently been fired. The employer had checked his computer search history, saw that he was browsing for “pressure cooker” and “backpack” and alerted local authorities.

In another incident, an employer installed a tracking device on an employee’s car to determine if that employee was moonlighting.

Surveys indicate that about two-thirds of employers practice some form of electronic monitoring with their workers.

Five Legal Ways Your Boss
Is Spying on You

Here are just a few of the ways your boss might be tracking you:

Internet Search Monitoring: Most employers do this. They set up systems to flag inappropriate Internet usage at work. So stay off social media sites, unless they are part of your job description. Don’t do personal shopping online while at work. Don’t visit questionable blogs. In short, don’t do stuff on the Internet that you aren’t paid to do.

Keylogging: More and more employers are using keylogging programs these days. These programs track every keystroke you may on your computer. Your employer can use them to read your email and to see how you spend your workday. They can even capture your personal passwords. Be very careful what you type while at work. It could get you into trouble!

Social Media: Some employers make a regular practice of monitoring the private social media accounts of their employees. (In some states, employers are even allowed to demand access to your social media accounts, passwords and all, when they hire you.) Employers will watch for things like disparaging posts about the company, for posts about health-related issues, or for posts that indicate you’re cheating the company.

Videotaping: Those security cameras may be playing double-duty. In addition to helping protect your place of business from a theft or other crime, they may also be used to monitor employee behavior and productivity.

Off-Duty Behavior: In many states, if your employer gets wind of behavior they don’t like, even if it happened away from work and off the clock, they can fire you for it. With social media monitoring, this type of scenario is becoming more common.

It’s common sense that you should follow a professional code-of-conduct when you’re at work. You shouldn’t be doing your personal shopping while you’re on the clock. And you shouldn’t be frittering away work hours checking your Facebook page and Twitter account.

However, when you leave your place of business, your employer doesn’t need to be snooping into your life to see how you spend your free time.

Protect Yourself and Your Job

One of the first steps you can take against employer snooping is to get informed. Often, employers ask you to sign privacy rights away in the mountain of paperwork you do when you’re hired. The small print may contain your consent to be audio recorded during work conversations and phone calls, to release your medical records to your employer, and to have your email monitored while at work—even your personal accounts.

Check your employee handbook. It may tell you exactly how your employer plans to monitor you. Things like email monitoring, phone call recording, and even social media spying are usually spelled out in the handbook—it gives your boss legal protection. Make sure you also read any new policies your employer releases. The technology is always changing, so the way your employer monitors you may be in the policy updates rather than the original handbook.

Also pay attention to things that get repeated back to you either from private conversations at work or from your social media accounts. If you notice that happening, then your employer is definitely monitoring you.

Once you know that your employer is spying on you and you have a good idea of how, you can begin adjusting your behavior accordingly. If you realize your boss is a fan of your social media accounts, you can set up private lists so that your posts only reach certain people. If you realize that your conversations at work are being reported on either by a colleague or through a listening device, then you know to watch what you say. And you should always be careful what you do at your computer.

Unfortunately, the days of employer spying look like they are here to stay. Your options are to adapt your behavior to keep your job or to become your own boss.


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