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The Future Of Hybrid And Remote Work Will Increase Orwellian Big-Brother ‘Tattleware’ Spyware For Surveilling Workers

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at September 26, 2021

One of the major reasons why management opposes remote work is that they lose their control to micromanage. Big-ego driven supervisors who view themselves as the saviors of the company really believe that if it weren’t for them no one would do any work. With people operating remotely at home, management is afraid that they’re losing their tight grip on employees.

To gain back control, bosses have followed people to their homes. Not literally, but via invasive intrusive software. During the onset of the outbreak companies told employees to work from home, The New York Times reported at the time, “Demand 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.” 

As you’re still trying to cope with an overwhelming amount of stress during the pandemic, now it seems you might have to be concerned that your company is always watching you too. According to the Los Angeles Times, companies have been scrambling to purchase spyware as “they’re trying to allow their employees to work from home, but trying to maintain a level of security and productivity.”  

The employee monitoring software market is forecasted to rapidly grow and reach $4.5 billion by 2026. As business leaders realized that the remote and hybrid trends of working will last for the foreseeable future, they’re deploying even greater amounts of surveillance. One of the providers of this type of technology is Sneek. Derisively, people refer to their products as  “tattleware” or “bossware.” 

Sneek routinely captures live photos of workers via their webcams. These visuals could be shown on a digital conference room. Employees can see the shots. Workers could then forward objectionable activities to their bosses.  Sneek co-founder Del Currie said about his platform “We know lots of people will find it an invasion of privacy, we 100% get that, and it’s not the solution for those folks.” He added that there is also a sharing element too, saying, “But there’s also lots of teams out there who are good friends and want to stay connected when they’re working together.”

The ‘big brother’ tech runs the gamut. For example EmailAnalytics “silently tracks employees’ email activity and displays it in interactive tables and graphs. Employers can track average email response time, top senders and recipients, and email activity by hour of the day or day of the week.”

Activity monitoring is the most often used product. The software keeps track of the websites and applications visited by a worker, logs what is posted online, measures the amount of keystrokes on your computer and takes screenshots of the screen. There’s FlexiSpy that offers call-tapping, Spytech for mobile devices and NetVizor that has a remote takeover feature.

Amazon said that it would track the keyboard and mouse movements of its customer service employees, watch live videos of Amazon drivers and check  the amount of time warehouse workers take off during their shifts. 

This shouldn’t be too surprising as we’ve been slowly losing our rights to privacy. Tech and social media companies such as Facebook have access to our personal information. Google probably knows more about you than your family. Currently, there is a push for people to upload on their phones the up-to-date vaccination status, which could potentially end up in a larger government or corporate database.

It’s been this way for a while, but not as pervasive. The large UK-based investment bank, Barclays, was previously probed by the Information Commissioner’s Office. The privacy agency examined the big bank to see if the company spied on its employees.  Back in August 2017, it was reported that Barclays installed software to allegedly find out if traders and bankers were sitting at their desks working or galavanting outside of the office. 

It started when employees noticed a black box underneath their desks and questioned what was going on. It turned out the bank planted tracking devices called OccupEye, which is a heat and motion sensor. Employees believe Barclays implemented these devices to track how long they remained at their desks. 

The bank claimed that it wasn’t snooping on its people, stating, “The sensors aren’t monitoring people or their productivity; they are assessing office space usage. This sort of analysis helps us to reduce costs, for example, managing energy consumption, or identifying opportunities to further adopt flexible work environments.” Barclays is alleged to have used this software for about 18 months. The bank said that it was changing the system after receiving blowback and criticism. 

Banks have long used tools to watch over their employees. It’s not just checking up to see if they are doing their jobs or spending too much time at the pub. In an effort to ensure that financial institutions are not taking advantage of customers or employees engaging in insider trading or violating the rules, their actions are closely scrutinized and monitored. 

Certain securities professionals are required to disclose their outside investments and business activities to ensure that there are no conflicts. Phone calls are monitored. Brokers, bankers, salespersons and traders have their activities regularly reviewed. Employees are told to take consecutive weeks of vacation to allow the bank time to see if they’ve been up to no good. This makes prudent sense, as it protects the customers, reputations of the banks and is used as a way to ensure that bankers, brokers and traders don’t do anything wrong.

As it appears that companies are embracing the hybrid work model, which calls for workers to go into the office around two days a week, supervisors will keep snooping on their staff. A large percentage of employees are demanding to continue working remotely with the threat of resignation if their requests are denied. Even if a portion of the people remain working at home, companies will feel the need to continue and heighten surveillance.

Most people can understand the example of Wall Street necessitating oversight. Families’ life savings are at stake, money could be laundering through banks by terrorist organizations, a Ponzi scheme would wipe out a person’s retirement savings and insider trading could run rampant. In other sectors, the risks may not be so great to necessitate heavy surveillance. The bigger question is: Why doesn’t management focus on the results, work product, meeting and exceeding goals instead of watching their every move?

Some employees who are subjected to new levels of surveillance report being both ‘incredibly stressed out’ by the constant monitoring and also afraid to speak up, a recipe for not only dissatisfaction but also burnout, both of which—ironically—decrease productivity,” wrote the Harvard Business Review.

When it comes to watching every movement a person makes, workers feel that they are not trusted and the bosses are on an abusive power trip. In a hot job market, this will make people quit and go to work for other companies that don’t deploy this type of anti-privacy technologies.


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