Ever get the feeling your boss -- or your boss's IT department -- is lurking through the network, spying on you? Odds are quite good your instinct is right. And the bigger the organization, the more likely it monitors employees' e-mail, IM, or Web surfing.
According to a 2005 survey by the American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute, three out of four companies monitor where their employees go on the Web, and more than half scan their e-mail. One out of four organizations report having terminated employees for e-mail abuse, and another 25 percent have canned workers for inappropriate Web surfing. Think that blog is safe for speaking your mind? Think again. Two percent of companies have fired workers over offensive blog entries, according to the 2006 version of the survey.
And then there’s background checks (80 percent of businesses conduct them, according to Spherion), drug tests (50 percent), surveillance cameras, and that GPS transponder in the company car.
This doesn't mean employers are evil. They do have a lot to worry about: trade secrets leaking out via e-mail, employee misrepresentation, harassment suits stemming from inappropriate e-mail or Web surfing, folks just plain goofing off on the company dime.
“There is enormous pressure on companies to expand their workplace surveillance,” notes Frederick Lane, author of The Naked Employee: How Technology Is Compromising Workplace Privacy.
“The biggest problem is that increased surveillance inevitably collects non-work-related information about employees and offers employers more opportunity to make employment decisions -- hiring, firing, promotion, etc. -- based on criteria other than qualifications and job performance,” Lane says.
“Workplace privacy”? That's just another oxymoron.
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