Employee Surveillance Applications Are an Intrusive Waste of Time nytimes.com

Adam Satariano, New York Times:

With millions of us working from home in the coronavirus pandemic, companies are hunting for ways to ensure that we are doing what we are supposed to. Demand has surged for software that can monitor employees, with programs tracking the words we type, snapping pictures with our computer cameras and giving our managers rankings of who is spending too much time on Facebook and not enough on Excel.

The technology raises thorny privacy questions about where employers draw the line between maintaining productivity from a homebound work force and creepy surveillance. To try to answer them, I turned the spylike software on myself.

Via Christina Warren:

[…] Moreover, all it does is underscore that you don’t trust your employees and encourages employees to use workarounds to avoid surveillance.

But what really gets me is that in the modern work era, employees are frequently encouraged to bring their own devices to work. Meaning, I’m paying for my own equipment. And that comes with a tacit expectation we work more off hours. Imagine paying to be spied on!

Finding loopholes is ultimately what Satariano did:

By the end, I found myself trying to cheat the Hubstaff system altogether. As I write this at 11:38 a.m. on April 24, I am about to get some coffee and spend time with my cooped-up kids. But I plan to leave a Google Doc open on my computer that Hubstaff can screenshot to make it look like I was doing work.

Aside from how creepy, intrusive, and ineffective surveillance technologies like these are, I cannot imagine that anyone will actually sift through employees’ work sessions to verify that the report is accurate. All the data collection in the world cannot replace trust, but it can destroy it.