Can Employers Monitor a Home Network?
Are you wondering if your employer can monitor your home network? You may think the answer is a hard no but think again.
Federal privacy laws state that your employer can monitor your computer if you have given consent and if there is a legitimate reason for it. With those provisions in place, it is perfectly legal for employers to monitor their workers. Even when you are working from home, you can be watched.
Your employer has diverse ways to monitor you. Read on to find out more about employee monitoring on a home network.
Can My Employer Monitor My Personal Computer?
There are laws in place to protect the rights of the worker. However, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act makes it legal for employers to monitor their employee’s devices to protect business interests. There must first get the workers’ consent to spy legally. Some of the reasons a company wants to monitor its employees:
- To improve worker productivity
- To protect the company against theft
- To find out how employees spend their time
- To evaluate the in-house and remote workers
Performance checks are necessary to determine the value of each employee, whether they work in the office or at home. Employers can also see their employees’ work, provide guidance, and help correct mistakes. It is not just spying to make employees’ lives miserable, as it has a purpose. Training materials can also be part of the package.
What Are Federal Privacy Laws in the Workplace?
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution safeguards against unlawful search and seizure. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act inhibits third-party intrusion or the monitoring of electronic devices without permission. The Fourth Amendment only protects government employees. The ECPA was created to limit the scope of surveillance conducted by the employer. However, it does not apply:
- If you have given prior consent to the monitoring
- If there is a legitimate business reason for surveillance
- If the information being monitored is kept on company equipment
This means that employee protection can only go so far. Employees can be observed if it is in the company’s best interests to do so, and there is no way around that. Even if you are working from home, your employer can monitor your computer.
However, there is privacy protection for employees using the telephone. Employees must give their consent to the monitoring and recording of phone calls. If the call is personal, your employer cannot monitor your conversation.
What Are State Laws for Privacy in the Workplace?
According to Forbes magazine, companies started utilizing more surveillance tools when the COVID-19 pandemic became an international crisis. Employers monitoring their employees doubled from about 30 percent to 60 percent. Even advanced technologies were being implemented. The most common forms of employee monitoring include phone and video surveillance.
So far, only three states, New York, Connecticut, and Delaware, have made laws concerning the monitoring of employees, as employers are required to provide employees with a heads-up and let them know they are being monitored.
California was set to be the fourth state to enact legislation, but they withdrew. The Workplace Technology and Accountability Act would have required employers to inform their employees about the surveillance and explain the reasons for the employee monitoring software.
It would have also stopped employers from monitoring employees when they were not working or using their computers. It would have also prohibited facial recognition technology and prevented algorithms from determining each worker’s employment status or need for discipline.
State Privacy Laws
State laws have specific legislation that could affect employee monitoring. This includes state constitutions that govern the right to privacy in favor of the employee. These states include:
- South Carolina
Data privacy laws can also affect the outcome of employee monitoring, counting the Privacy Rights Act and the Consumer Privacy Act in California.
Many states have an invasion of privacy laws. The courts will typically consider the employee’s expectation of privacy and the rights of the company to implement employee monitoring. Ways employers can legally monitor you:
- Accessing files
- Internet activity
- Physical location
Of course, employee productivity is also monitored. Employers can see how long an app or piece of software stays open. It is less likely that an employer will monitor you when you are on a personal device, but it can still happen.
How Employers Can Monitor Your Personal Computer
An example where the employee’s right to privacy is protected is if the employee emails someone from a personal computer while working remotely. However, if the email is sent from a company device, it is less likely that the employee’s rights will be protected. Some other ways employee monitoring can occur:
If You Are Hooked to a Work Network
Your employer can monitor you if you are hooked to a work network. The purpose is to make sure you are using your work time wisely. They do not want to see you posting on Facebook; they want to make sure the employee they hired is doing their job. Your employer can monitor any device hooked to the work network, including your cell phone.
Through the Use of Remote Spy Software
By using remote spyware, your employer can monitor you to see if you are “working hard or hardly working,” so to speak. Companies can take screenshots of their computer screen to help protect the business against threats. They can log your keystrokes, which is a sneaky tactic used to monitor business transactions.
Wolfeye is a company that makes spyware. This spyware has screen monitoring to see if you are using your work time wisely. They can also take screenshots regularly and can see your internet history. If you are working remotely, they can still use it.
How Employers Will Not Be Able to Monitor You
In other circumstances, your employer cannot monitor you on your personal computer. If you think your employer is monitoring you, try this clever little trick:
Have a Virtual Private Network
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, encodes your information and keeps it secure from your employer. The traffic moves to another host, preventing anyone from seeing your browsing history. The only visible evidence is that you are connecting to a VPN. However, employers are not fans of their employees using a VPN, as it looks suspicious. They will think you are wasting time on the job, as some employers enforce a strict no-VPN policy.
Employers can only monitor your computer if you have consented to the monitoring and have a legitimate business reason for it. However, there are very few laws in place specifically about employee monitoring.