How to detect Employee Monitoring?

Employee monitoringEmployee monitoring is ubiquitous these days. If you work in an office or on a company equipment – it is safer to just assume that you are being monitored. How can you get rid of monitoring programs or at least detect it?

Most employers who use so called employee monitoring software in US and especially EU will be very explicit about employee monitoring programs in place and will ask you to sign a paper with your consent  (if you are an employer – read how to use employee monitoring software properly). Some employers, however, may install readily available and popular employee spying software without notifying employees about it. In most developed countries it would be illegal, in others it may fall into a grey area. EU laws are the most protective of employees and US laws are more relaxed. (This nicely highlights EU & US differences in this respect.) But, disregarding the legal side of the question, how can you protect yourself?

First – most of your web communications while working in an office probably go through a company proxy where it can be easily analysed (internet monitoring). You can try to bypass it using proxy servers or VPN or by encrypting your traffic. And while you may succeed in hiding the content of your traffic, the fact that you did hide it will be obvious to your IT department and most probably will raise very unpleasant questions of what did you actually had to hide and why. I do not see a situation where it is worth the trouble. In short, while working on a company network, always assume that your boss can see what websites you visit and there is nothing you can do about it.

If you are using company computers, employers may install employee monitoring software with so called “stealth” option (like  popular Spector). These programs can record your every keystroke (keyloggers), take screenshots (screenshot monitoring) and report on your every move. To detect such software, you may get advises from the web to check you Start folder, your running processes, your tray icons – it is useless, do not waste your time. These programs are well written and you will not be able to discover them using simple methods like these. Your best bet is to try one or two antispyware programs. They usually have trial mode, so you can do it for free. The most popular ones are probably Ad-Aware and Spybot – Search & Destroy.

Another option – just use your own laptop (one of the most radical privacy solutions). Just remember that as long as you use company’s network – your communication may be monitored.

When you work for someone, you have to understand that employers have a legitimate reason to see that employers do not waste the time they are paid for. Yes, the focus should be on result, not on the process, but it is not always possible with every type of work and employers often get a significant productivity increase with employee monitoring software. Instead of fighting employee monitoring as a class, be more specific and fight spying. Encourage the use of software that gives employees the control of when to be monitored. Take ScreenshotMonitor – this program tracks time and takes periodic screenshots for company managers to review online. It is started by employees themselves, very explicit at what it does and allows deleting any of the screenshots that employee decides is private. If you can not escape monitoring, at least take control of it into your own hands.

8 thoughts on “How to detect Employee Monitoring?

  1. Employee Monitoring is a must. Employee monitoring software helps organizations to keep track of employees work, on a daily basis and helps in giving appropriate feedback to employees. In addition to this, IT department of organizations can even have on premise remote support servers installed like the ones given by R-HUB to remotely monitor employee’s computers.

  2. Profit at the expense of employee privacy doesn’t pass the sniff test. If you knowingly monitor your employees, you send the very direct message that you distrust them and make them feel as if they’re every move is being watched, then you will forever be the employer of last resort; only getting crumbs when better companies get better candidates. Be ready for lawsuits too. on the other hand, by fostering a culture of trust, compassion and accountability, and rewarding people for taking risks regardless of outcome; and now you begin setting the stage for great things to happen. And think of all the things you can do with the money you didn’t spend buying and supporting spyware and the hours and hours of watching people to make sure they don’t do anything wrong. Bottom line…I’ve never seen a company that “tries not to lose” beat a company that’s 100% focused on winning and isn’t afraid to lose.

    1. I disagree with most of your arguments. No, control does not mean distrust. No, majority of users do not feel like every move is watched. In fact, once they pass initial adjustment period, a lot of users find it useful to show managers what they work on and like the automated time tracking. You can be the best employee and be comfortable with monitoring – why not? What do you have to hide if you are honest in your work? And you can stop it any time if you want to do something personal.
      I understand your emotional rejection, but what you claim as a fact is actually just your assumptions based on that rejection.

  3. Yes i agree. Monitor everyone right to the top and publish this on the company website. Managers need to know what their reports do… at the same time the reports need to know what the managers and ceo’s are up to. Afterall we all usually owners of the company via stock options

  4. What is it when the boss gives access to my emails to multiple managers (only because the others were jealous when only one manager had the responsibility of peeping), and some of them spend their breaks running their eyes all over my work (emails), then share some information with co-workers who want my job? I can’t prove this but I know it is happening. My boss gets pissed if I try to talk to him about it. He says he’s too busy. He looks at my email and everything I do daily but lies that he doesn’t. I don’t care if he does, I do good work and I’m a strong loyal ethical employee. It frustrates me that they aren’t honest with me. Do the others have the right to pore over my emails on their breaks?

  5. Thanks, Ross, for informing us about how to detect employee monitoring software.
    But, using employee monitoring software is beneficial for both employees & companies to grow productivity rate & company’ revenue.

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