Do you receive phone calls from family or friends while you are at the office? Ever surf the web while on the job?
If your typical workday involves the use of high-tech communication tools such as a computer or smartphone, it’s easy to conduct personal matters using these devices without giving a second thought to your actions. Actually, you’d better think twice because chances are, during working hours, all of your activities, personal or not, are being monitored.
Whether it be your email, phone calls, or website behavior, your employer could be keeping a very close eye on you. How close? Let’s just say you should have no expectation of privacy at work. Here are a few ways management keeps tabs on its employees:
Computer work and usage
Any activities performed on company-owned equipment, such as a computer, is fair game. The following will give you an idea of what types of information your employer can track or access with the right technology:
- Content on your screen or files stored on disk drives
- The amount of time you spend on and off your computer
- How many keystrokes entered during a specific period
- Your browsing history
Depending on the circumstances, union contracts, the Fourth Amendment and statutory rights in various states may help protect an employee against computer and other modes of electronic monitoring.
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Email and messaging
As with hardware, any use of company-owned or licensed software by an employee opens the door for tracking his or her communications. Whether it be email or instant messaging for personal or work reasons, given a valid reason, your employer is allowed to review its contents.
Some business email systems automatically copy and create backups of all messages that pass through. With the use of specialized software, referred to as a key logger, your employer could have copies saved of email drafts you never sent. In this case, deleting your emails is futile.
If you have concerns or questions regarding your company’s guidelines for viewing personal emails, contact your manager or HR department for privacy policies.
Here’s a tricky one. If you are active on social media, assume your employer pays attention to your posts, likes and tweets.
While you may not consider your social media behavior concern for your employment, look to the news. Such highlighted cases often discuss an employee facing termination due to that person’s social media activities.
To help prevent this situation, be sensible about what you share online and follow your company’s social media guidelines. Be aware that several states have laws prohibiting an employer from firing an employee for off-duty social media activity unless such action is shown to be harmful to the company, which doesn’t appear difficult to prove.
Company vehicle use
Do you drive a corporate car occasionally or regularly for work-related travel? If you do, take note.
Ensure your trips are specifically for the office as many companies now utilize GPS to track an employee’s whereabouts while in possession of a company-owned vehicle. Gathered information includes:
- Driving behavior, including speed
- Time spent in and out of the vehicle
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Company provided mobile devices
Location tracking of employees is not exclusive to cars. If your employer provides you with a company mobile device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop, you can expect the company to have some monitoring/tracking system on the equipment.
Be warned! The device may continue sending your location long after your work shift ends.
One method of monitoring you on a company device such as the Apple iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch is through supervision settings. What does supervision mean and how do you check for this setting?
Supervision allows the administrator to apply additional restrictions such as preventing access to the App Store, filtering web usage or disabling AirDrop. Here’s how to check if your device is supervised.
For devices with iOS 10 or later you will find the supervision message in one of two places: at the top of your main settings page or on the lock screen. Those with devices running iOS 9 or earlier you will find this message by going into Settings, click General and tap About. The message also appears on the bottom of the lock screen.
What if your employer provides you an Android device? If you use an Android phone and Google Suites for work, your company’s admin can set security policies you need to adhere to, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Device password required length and strength
- Number of days before the password expires
- Auditing applications
- Remotely remove an account or wipe a device
If you have questions or concerns regarding your employer-provided Android or Google Suites contact your G Suite administrator for further information and details. It may be of additional benefit to look at the Google Apps Device Policy overview and how to set up the app.
Personal mobile devices
Instead of providing mobile devices, many companies have a bring your own device (BYOD) program that allows employees to use their personal mobile device(s) at and for work purposes.
If this is your present situation, it is essential you read your company’s BYOD guidelines to understand the rights of both parties. Look for the policy in various employee materials such as a handbook, contract, training material, or a specific BYOD agreement.
Wondering what type of information your employer can view on your mobile device if you access the internet through your mobile network? None. However, if you were to log on through the office Wi-Fi, your employer can track all internet data.
Although the idea of your company tracking your location and monitoring your moves may have you paranoid heading into the office, you should not be overly concerned. Just because the technology is there doesn’t mean your boss is using it to spy on you.