Can Employer Track A Company Laptop?
With the rising rate of monitoring practices in the workplace, it is important for employees to be aware of how they are being monitored, whether it is legal, and how they can protect their privacy.
Most businesses today use computer monitoring software to monitor their employees, and it is completely legal for them to do so. This can give them vast information regarding how employees use company software.
Continue reading for more information on what kind of data computer monitoring software can track and how employees can protect their privacy.
Can Employer Track A Company Laptop?
Yes, they can. Businesses often install employee monitoring software on workers‘ company-issued laptops in order to keep tabs on productivity, prevent data breaches, and lessen the likelihood of other forms of cybercrime.
Employee monitoring software additionally helps businesses in gathering data that is important for decision-making processes.
According to a survey conducted in 2007 by the American Management Association, nearly 50 percent of all employers surveil employee computer files, and nearly two-thirds monitor employee use of the internet.
Most employers that use this software can see almost everything that goes in and out of work computers and the company network.
How Does Monitoring Software Help Evaluate Employee Performance?
Monitoring software can keep an eye on a number of different metrics that are used to judge how well you do your job as an employee. These can help employers make decisions ahead of the annual review time. Common examples include the following:
Employee monitoring software can track the amount of time you spend working on specific tasks and how many tasks you are able to finish.
Employee monitoring software can track any movements on the keyboard and mouse to determine when you are actively working and when you have taken a break.
Employee monitoring software can provide your employer with access to your webcam if you have an employee agreement that permits them to do so.
Employee monitoring software can allow employers to keep track of their emails to look for things like profanity and other indicators of employee dissatisfaction. They can also track negative social media posts.
Employee monitoring software can track what websites you visit, including any job-search websites.
When Employee Activity is Protected
Sometimes, certain types of computer use are protected from employee monitoring, regardless of whether the laptop and/or network belong to the company.
Unions can negotiate electronic monitoring. Union members are also entitled to challenge any disciplinary actions taken as a result of electronic surveillance.
Protected Concerted Activity
If you are participating in protected concerted activity, your employer cannot terminate your employment as a result of computer surveillance.
If you were terminated or given a punishment for using email to voice grievances about your job to other coworkers or for using your work computer to help organize a union, this constitutes a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
You may be protected from retaliation by anti-retaliation or whistleblower laws if you are dismissed for sending emails regarding illegal activity (discrimination, breaking wage rules, etc.) in the workplace.
Legal Considerations Before Implementing Employee Tracking
There are some laws that businesses need to be aware of before they implement employee monitoring.
Electronic Communications Privacy Act
Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 doesn’t allow „interception“ of electronic messages like phone calls, emails, and computer use without permission.
However, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act does provide three exceptions that allow businesses to have practically unrestricted access to the electronic communications of their employees.
An employer may conduct monitoring of employee use of company networks if necessary for „legitimate business needs.“ This involves providing better service to customers, putting an end to harassment, and ensuring that all employees are working.
Monitoring is legal if at least one participant in a communication agrees to it. Even if it is only the employer who consents, the condition of “consent” is said to have been met.
Therefore, the only thing that is required of an employer is to provide prior notice of its policy, but the business doesn’t need to obtain the consent of the employee.
The fact that the employee was aware of the policy and chose to continue working in the same company automatically implies that they do, in fact, consent to its implementation.
Electronic communication can be accessed by the system owner, including email, instant message, and voicemail.
California Consumer Protection Act
The California Consumer Protection Act mandates businesses to share the information they are collecting on customers, including which data they are collecting, how they are collecting it, and how they intend to use the data.
Up until 2023, employers were spared from having to make such disclosures to their employees, but recent changes have put an end to this exception.
How Employees Can Still Protect Their Privacy
It is possible for employees to protect their privacy even with the implementation of employee monitoring on company laptops. A good rule of thumb is to use the computer at work just for job-related tasks and to save your computer for personal business.
This might seem like a simple point, but employees often feel more comfortable using their company-issued laptops for personal use. In some situations, employees only have access to a company laptop and do not have a separate personal device of their own. This makes it difficult to separate both types of usage.
The most important thing is to always operate under the assumption that anything you do while on a company laptop is not a private matter. This not only entails the company-issued devices you use but also any programs that you have access to through your employer, such as Slack, Zoom, and ClickUp.
Employers can track company software through the use of computer monitoring software. This software measures various metrics for employee performance. However, there are a few things discussed above that employers must consider before they implement employee monitoring.