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See also main article: Employee monitoring software
E-mail scanning is a process in which incoming and outgoing mail passes through E-mail filtering software to search for content which may violate the policies of the employer. Often E-mails which are flagged by the filtering software will be then reviewed by a human to verify the validity of the E-mail content. While an employee has the right for privacy, using company property means a company may monitor the way their equipment is used. A wide misconception with electronic emails in a work environment is that privacy rights issued with electronic mail is exactly the same as the private communications of sending and receiving U.S. mail with an envelope. As long as the services being used are provided by the employer, it is not an invasion of privacy if they monitor their own systems. For the monitoring of employee electronic mail to be considered an invasion of privacy, it must fall under certain conditions. The person reading the electronic mail must engage in this activity intentionally with the purpose of intruding on private affairs, and the intrusion must be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
Monitoring systems can automatically count every keystroke of data-entry and data-processing clerks. Similarly, workers who answer telephone calls all day are monitored in detail called Telephone tapping. The exact number and duration of each call, and the idle time between calls, can go into an automatic log for analysis.
One of the most effective forms of employee monitoring is through the use of Video surveillance equipment. Video feeds of employee activities are fed back to a central location where they are either recorded or monitored live by another person. "This is a benefit because it provides an unbiased method of performance evaluation and prevents the interference of a manager's feelings in an employee's review (Mishra and Crampton, 1998)." Management can review the performance of an employee by checking the surveillance and detecting problems before they become too costly.
For employees that do not work in a static location, supervisors may choose to track their location. Common examples of this are delivery and transportation industries. In some of these cases the employee monitoring is incidental as the location is tracked for other purposes, such as determining the amount of time before a parcel will be delivered, or which taxi is closest.
Employee surveillance may lead to an executive's decision on whether to promote or demote and employee or in some cases even fire them.
Different techniques can be used, e.g. employees' cell phone or Mobile phone tracking.
In arenas where employees are not paid to their full labor product, mass video surveillance is an industrial organization method deployed as a psychological tactic upon the proletariats psyche. Conceived by F. W. Taylor, though not available for many decades thereafter, video surveillance ensures near perpetual activity, or maximum exploitation. This method is favored in hotels to monitor housekeeping staff.
Employee privacy and ethical issues
Companies need to make sure they remain moral in utilizing techniques for monitoring their employees. From an ethical point of view, the employee does not give up all of his or her privacy while they are in their work environment. Privacy can become a moral matter, but it is important to know what the employee and employer rights are. The ethical challenge that companies face involves protecting their interests through Internet monitoring while ensuring they don't go so far that employees lose all sense of privacy in the workplace. When a policy is in place, both the employer and employee will understand what is expected of each other. Without the proper policies and procedures there becomes no set standard and theoretically the employee has nothing to go by. The employee needs to understand what is expected of them while the employer needs to establish that rule.
In Canada, it is illegal to perform invasive monitoring, such as reading an employee's emails, unless it can be shown that it is a necessary precaution and there are no other alternatives. In Maryland everyone in the conversation must give consent before the conversation can be recorded. The state of California requires that monitored conversations have a beep at certain intervals or there must be a message informing the caller that the conversations may be recorded, take note that this is not informing the company representative which calls are being recorded. Other states, including Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado and New Jersey, also have laws relating to when a conversation can be recorded
The following uses of employee information are generally considered legal:
- Find needed business information when the employee is not available.
- Protect security of proprietary information and data.
- Prevent or investigate possible criminal activities by employees.
- Prevent personal use of employer facilities.
- Check for violations of company policy against sending offensive or pornographic email.
- Investigate complaints of harassment.
- Check for illegal software.
According to Computer Monitoring: The Hidden War Of Control,“The employer of today has the ability and legal right to read e-mail, review files stored on a company computer, examine computer usage, and track individual employee computer activities. The idea of anonymous actions is an illusion. Every action between a network and the computers connected to it can be tracked. Every action by an individual worker on a computer can be tracked, analyzed and used against the employee. The protections and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are there to protect the individual from the Government and do not generally apply to the normal employee/employer relationship.”
In some cases, monitoring an employee's work leads to monitoring the employee's life in aspects that are not related to work. This leads to acquisition of information about the employee, compromising the security of the employee.
- Gordon Amsler; Henry Findley; Earl Ingram (January 1, 2011). "Performance Monitoring: Guidance for the Modern Workplace". Supervision. p. 16.
- Burks, F. Ethical Issues & Employer Monitoring Internet Usage. Chron.com, 2010.
- Kevin, P. P., & Tammy, Y. A. (2011). Computer monitoring: The hidden war of control. International Journal of Management and Information Systems, 15(1), 49-58. Retrieved from http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/IJMIS/article/view/1595
3. Mishra, J. M., & Crampton, S. M. (1998). Employee monitoring: Privacy in the workplace?. SAM Advanced Management Journal (07497075), 63(3), 4
- Spying on Employees: Should You Do It? 4 Things You Should Know About Employee Tracking
- Article from howstuffworks.com
- A privacy rights fact sheet
- BuitendienstInBeeld: Online service for employees' cellphone monitoring and reporting
- Ethical Issues & Employer Monitoring Internet Usage
- Santa Clara University
- A brief overview of laws regulating employee monitoring in developed countries