The Signs Your Computer Might Be Monitored at Work
As remote technologies evolve, more and more companies have implemented employee monitoring tools at work. So, it’s only natural for employees to wonder if they are being monitored at work. Luckily, there are a few signs that can tell whether you’re being monitored.
For example, if you’re using a work-issued computer or phone, then it’s highly likely that that device is being monitored. Other signs include your webcam light is on, unusual network activity, performance issues, and unusual pop-ups.
Read below as we talk more about how to tell whether you’re being monitored at work and what to do if you are.
The Signs Your Computer Might Be Monitored at Work
Following are some signs that your computer may be monitored at work.
It is normal practice for employers to install surveillance software on company-issued devices like laptops and mobile phones. As these are company assets, the purpose of this is to keep them safe and protected.
The company may also want to make sure that workers only use company computers and phones for work-related tasks and not for personal purposes, such as browsing the web or video calling their friends while they’re at work.
It’s also likely that your boss can see your work email and any other form of communication program, like Slack, even if you only use personal devices to join in. But it doesn’t imply they’re always checking in on these lines of communication.
Even so, they can look at your chat and email records if something goes wrong, such as when someone files a complaint against you. IT staff may also be able to see your info just by connecting to the company’s Wi-Fi.
Some computer monitoring software like Wolfeye allows employers to gain access to their employees’ webcams. So, if your computer’s webcam light seems to go on without you turning on the camera, it’s likely that your boss is watching you through the webcam.
Strange Software and Utility Programs
Someone may be monitoring your actions if you notice unfamiliar computer processes taking place on your device.
This may involve the presence of a toolbar, unusual software, or another unknown program. Software like Wolfeye has an invisible startup and can run in the background, which allows it to monitor your computer without your knowledge.
Unusual Network Activity
It’s possible that your online behavior is being monitored if your computer displays unusual network activity, such as heavy data uploads or downloads, even when you’re not accessing the internet.
Receiving notifications regarding computer activity monitoring from your employer is a clear indication that they are surveilling your online activities. Employers may use email or computer pop-ups to convey such information.
It’s also possible that someone is monitoring your computer if you suddenly start getting pop-up windows from unknown sources. Getting alerts or communications from people you don’t know may be a sign that your online behavior is being monitored.
A decrease in your computer’s performance may also indicate that it is being monitored. If you find that websites take longer to load or programs take longer to launch, it may be because someone is monitoring your online behavior.
Does Your Employer Have to Tell You About Monitoring?
Not really. Employees in the business world should have a low expectation of privacy in the office and when using their employer’s equipment remotely. According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, companies can legally monitor their employees’ oral and written conversations if they can demonstrate a legitimate business purpose for doing so.
EPCA also states that companies do not need to notify or obtain consent from employees prior to conducting any sort of monitoring.
Despite the fact that there is no rule at the federal level that requires disclosure or consent before using surveillance technology, many states have laws that do. States like Connecticut and Delaware have had such legislation on the books since 1998 and 2001, respectively.
However, there may be growing support for policies that protect workers’ rights when it comes to monitoring in the workplace. New York passed a bill in May that is very similar to those in Connecticut and Delaware, which prohibits the following:
- Monitoring employees while they are off the clock or using their own electronic devices
- Using facial-recognition software
- Employees not being allowed to examine any data that has been collected on them
The federal government’s General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently released a memo detailing their plans to strengthen protections for workers from overbearing surveillance.
The memo not only makes reference to the growing use of devices by delivery businesses to monitor their drivers, but it also makes specific reference to the monitoring of employee laptops. The General Counsel has stated that they are advocating for a new structure to shield employees from intrusive surveillance by the board.
Protecting Your Privacy When Being Monitored
If you’re using a work-issued computer and find out that you are being monitored, don’t try to prevent the tracking software from running by installing third-party programs.
In the worst-case scenario, your employer will become suspicious and assume you have something to hide, which could result in you being fired.
If your employer is checking your device, you can avoid trouble by following these precautions:
- The first step you should take to avoid being tracked is to move all of your private data to a cloud storage service, such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or another, rather than keeping them on your professional device.
- Using a work computer for personal use can create complications. If your device is already being monitored, restrict access to your personal life by only using it for work-related tasks.
- Never use your work-issued device to search for other jobs or visit websites that list jobs. This could jeopardize your current employment.
So, if you want to find out whether or not you are being monitored at work, there are plenty of signs through which you can tell. Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect your privacy in the event that you are being monitored.