Demand for employee surveillance software soars

Working from home has inspired bosses to find new ways of tracking their employees, says a study.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Thoughtful young Caucasian bearded employee reading or writing message on smart phone while sitting in the office late at night. On the desk laptop and cup of coffee. In background computer monitors. Selective focus on man.

Hmm, what is my employee doing now?

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Your bosses have become a little more caring.

They understand that working from home isn't ideal. They know you may have kids or a small apartment. Or both.

So, with the advent of the coronavirus, they're showing their human side a little more.

I want to believe this. I truly do. It seems, though, that COVID-19 has led to an interest in covert activities. Covert management activities, that is.

A new study, you see, suggests that interest in employee surveillance software has risen greatly since we were all locked down and loaded with toilet paper. As measured by search data, that is.

It seems that the minute April came along, bosses' impulse to follow their remote employees' every step and click rose by a fulsome 87% when compared with pre-COVID times. May saw an increase of 71%.

They were searching such terms as "work from home monitoring tools" and "how to monitor employees working from home."

There little reason for surprise. Too many employers, especially those less familiar with remote working, will grasp at any technology that makes them feel they're in total control.

It's unclear how many of these employers tell their employees what's going on. Or, perhaps, the full extent of what's going on.

The employee may think it's just another time management tool. Perhaps they don't realize that a particular tool can manage the camera on their laptop too.

Some employers may be perfectly overt. Why, I recently wrote about a chillingly modern new tool called enaible. This gives every employee a productivity score. Constantly. Slip up and the pink slip isn't far behind.

One should pause here to mention that this latest study was performed by a not entirely neutral party. Top10VPN has a certain interest in securing privacy for its adherents.

Moreover, its methodology was to look at 200 specific search terms, related to employee surveillance software, and examine how these terms performed over the year before and in the months after the outbreak.

Still, Top10VPN points out that some employee surveillance software does indeed allow employers to remotely take over your computer. It can also send employers alerts when an employee has performed an "undesirable" digital maneuver.

Which leaves a lot of scope for painful definitions and intrusions.

Moreover, once a company has sold a little employee surveillance software to a client, it's surely interested in making sure that software becomes an essential part of the client's operations, even after the pandemic.

And how might this make an employee feel when their boss has installed something like NetVizor, a software company that boasts: "NetVizor can operate entirely in stealth; that is, it's nearly invisible to the consumer."?

It also crows: "NetVizor can record just about every move a person makes."

And you thought Sting was kidding.

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