Can an Employer Monitor Your Personal Devices?
There are many ways that we communicate and access information. With smartphones and other personal devices growing in businesses, it raises the question of how much your employer can monitor.
Employers can monitor your personal devices if you use them for work and agree to a contract that allows monitoring. Companies can monitor your phone, tablet, laptop, or any other device you use for work-related purposes, and most do just that.
This article will discuss whether it’s okay for employers to monitor your personal devices using for example computer monitoring software like Wolfeye. Let’s get into it!
Why Employers May Monitor Your Personal Devices
There are many reasons your employer may want to monitor your personal devices, especially if you use them for work.
Prevent the Spread of Confidential Information
No matter your job title, you probably come across confidential company information when accessing work-related programs. Even things shared in a company email can be highly confidential and may harm the Company or clients if you share them outside of the company.
This means that companies that give their employees access to confidential information need a way to guarantee that employees don’t send that information out to anyone. This is easier to do within the company’s computers and devices. Companies can limit where employees send information and the websites they can access.
Companies that allow the use of company information on personal devices still need a way to ensure that information is safe. They can do this by monitoring employees’ personal devices.
Another important reason that companies may wish to monitor personal devices is to keep an eye on interactions. This may be interactions between different employees or even communications between employees and customers.
Interactions with customers are important to keep track of in any business. Companies want to monitor these interactions so that employees keep in contact with customers and keep a paper trail in case of complaints or errors. If a customer has an issue with an employee interaction, it’s important to have a backup copy.
Even if employees don’t communicate directly with customers, companies may still want to monitor employee interactions. This is to keep copies of employee interactions in case there is a disagreement. It’s also good to have proof if an employee communicates inappropriately with another.
If a company allows employees to have access to company communications on their personal devices, then monitoring those devices can keep customers and employees safe. Rather than choosing sides in a disagreement, monitoring those conversations allows the company to understand what happened and make an educated decision.
Remote Work Productivity
If you use personal devices to work remotely, your employee may monitor that device to ensure that you remain productive while working out of the office. Companies can now track keyboard strokes, inactivity, and other important factors that can better determine how much you’re working at home.
Most companies prefer to allow the use of company devices for remote work as it gives them more control over what employees put on the device. If the device is yours, but you still plan to use it for work, your employer may ask to install software on it that allows maximum monitoring.
While your personal device may be your own, having company information on it can be a problem for your employer if anything happens to your device. Companies may want to monitor your device to make sure that you aren’t sending out confidential information, but what happens if someone steals your device or hacks into it?
In the age of technology, we consistently have to work to protect our information. Companies feel the same way about their information. If someone were to steal your phone, they may have access to company information that they could use for nefarious purposes.
This is also why companies may require you to have a password to access your device. Even on personal devices, it’s common for people to access their work email at least. If someone steals your device, this gives that person the ability to access your work email and all the information in those emails.
So, companies may monitor your device to ensure that you’re doing enough to protect the information. They may monitor whether or not you save your work passwords on your device and other things that can later become a security risk.
Preventing Time Theft
You’ve probably heard about time theft sporadically in work meetings, as it has always been a concern with employers. Some may focus on productivity when it comes to time theft, but that is not the companies’ only concern. Sure, your boss wants you to be productive at work, but there are other ways employees can steal time besides not being very productive.
First, there is the “buddy punch.” This refers to having another employee clock you into work before you get there. This is a good way to avoid reprimand for being late, but it’s inaccurate. So, companies may monitor your devices so that this doesn’t happen. Checking your location, device activity, and the computer you clocked in on can help deter this.
Another type of time theft that companies can deter with device monitoring is taking extended breaks. This is not a big deal for those who don’t have to track breaks during the day, but many people need to stick to a break schedule. Employees taking longer than the allotted break times can affect their productivity and leave their team shorthanded.
So, companies may decide to monitor employees’ devices to confirm that employees take breaks for the appropriate amount of time. This can benefit companies and other employees who may struggle without the help of people who should be working during that time.
Easier Employee Exiting
One major benefit of companies monitoring employees’ personal devices is that it makes employee departure easier. Even employees leaving on good terms should no longer have access to company information. Companies can more easily check whether the information the employee had access to during employment is not at risk upon departure.
If a company can monitor employees’ personal devices, it can wipe all internal information from the device before the employee leaves. Employees leaving on good terms may not be much of a security risk, but those leaving on bad terms may not care what happens to the confidential information on their devices.
How Much Information Can an Employer Monitor on Your Personal Device?
While employers can monitor work-related information on your personal device, they are not allowed to monitor everything. The American Data Privacy and Protection Act prevents employers from monitoring your text messages and other information on your personal device without your consent or premade policies.
If your employer wants to monitor your use of work devices, they don’t need permission at all. In fact, this is encouraged by companies all over the US to ensure that employees are using those resources appropriately. However, monitoring personal devices gets a little more difficult.
If your employer wishes to monitor your personal devices that are not work-related, they will need your permission to do so. Otherwise, they cannot confiscate or monitor your own personal devices that you don’t use for company communications.
Bringing Your Own Device
Companies may have a policy that involves bringing your own device to work. This is especially common for remote companies that don’t require employees to come to the main office. In this case, they would have you bring your own computer, tablet, or phone to work from rather than providing one.
If your company has this policy, they can monitor any devices you use for work, even though they are personal devices. Companies like this tend to have a preexisting policy regarding bringing your own materials allowing the company to monitor them.
This can be concerning for some because it allows your employer to monitor what you do on your devices in your free time. Because the company is putting its software on your device, it becomes part of company property, enabling them to monitor it. While they probably won’t care about your personal texts or apps you download, you should be careful not to act unprofessionally on those devices.
Using the Company’s Network
If you connect your personal devices to your company’s wifi, they may monitor what you do on your phone. It’s especially common for companies to block certain websites when using their network, even on your own personal device.
This allows your employer to ensure that you aren’t visiting dangerous or inappropriate websites at work. You may be unable to visit certain websites at all, as the company can choose to block whichever websites they prefer. However, they can do more than just block unfriendly sites.
If you use company wifi, you should watch what you search at work. While they can control which websites you visit, they can also see your internet activity. This is another way for companies to monitor your personal devices even if you don’t use them for work.
How To Keep Your Personal Devices Private
If you want to be sure that your employer cannot monitor everything you do on your personal device, you must keep it separate from work. This means that you should only access your work information on company devices.
Even having just your work email on your personal device is a security risk for companies, and they may choose to monitor your device. Think about how much confidential information you see or send about the company internally every day. That information is much less safe when accessing it from your device.
So, you should keep your own personal devices separate from your work if you want to keep them from being monitored by your employer. Otherwise, they will probably choose to monitor them.
Be Aware of Policies
Because no laws stand in the way of companies monitoring your devices, you should always make yourself aware of the company policies surrounding monitoring. This will be part of the contract you sign when hired, but the information is usually available to you in many places.
Check the employee handbook if you have one, or you can also reach out to HR for the information. Read up on the monitoring rules laid out in the employee agreement so that you don’t miss any rules.
Leave Work at Work
One of the best ways to confirm that a company does not monitor your personal devices is to keep your work and personal devices separate. This starts by leaving work at work. Keeping your work email off of your personal device can help you have a better work-life balance while keeping your device private and completely separate from your employer.
So, leave your work devices behind as much as possible when you’re off the clock and avoid checking work on your personal devices. Keeping everything separate will allow you to keep your own devices private.
The best way to approach employer device monitoring is to assume that they are monitoring any device connected in some way to your job. If you have any devices provided by your company, they will monitor your activity on them. If you have access to secure information about the company on any device, expect that they will monitor it to protect themselves.
Before you provide your personal device to the company, ensure you’re clear on their expectations. This is the best way to guarantee you’re following the rules and not risk company intervention by accessing certain websites on your personal devices.
Employers can monitor your personal devices if you have access to company information through them or access the company network when there. They do this for many reasons, but they especially want to ensure that their information is safe, even on your device.
Make sure you talk to your employer about their device monitoring policies. Also, ensure you’re careful about the websites you visit and messages you send on monitored devices. Otherwise, you may find yourself in trouble at work.