Another Coronavirus Side Effect: In-Home Surveillance By Remote Workers' Employers

from the spyware-but-for-people's-faces dept

Well, it took a pandemic to normalize domestic surveillance by [checks notes] employers. Not sure if this is the dystopia we needed or the one we deserved, but the shelter-in-place policies that have turned lots of office workers into telecommuters has led to incredible growth in one particular market sector.

With so many people working remotely because of the coronavirus, surveillance software is flying off the virtual shelves.

“Companies have been scrambling,” said Brad Miller, CEO of surveillance-software maker InterGuard. “They’re trying to allow their employees to work from home but trying to maintain a level of security and productivity.”

Axos spokesman Gregory Frost said in a statement that “the enhanced monitoring of at-home employees we implemented will ensure that those members of our workforce who work from home will continue” to meet quality and productivity standards that are expected from all workers.

This new surveillance obviously doesn't extend to the executive levels of these companies. It's the rank-and-file that will feel it the most -- the same that have been subjected to always-on monitoring of their computer and internet use while at the office.

It's another system -- one that can be gamed just as easily as those deployed in the workplace. Actually, these will probably be gamed even more easily considering some companies are using weird metrics like "emails sent" to gauge worker productivity.

But there's more to it than virtual bean-counting and hall-monitoring. The spyware that works-from-home will also alert clients if employees engage in certain behavior.

Managers using InterGuard’s software can be notified if an employee does a combination of worrisome behaviors, such as printing both a confidential client list and a resume, an indication that someone is quitting and taking their book of business with them.

Companies that don't want to pay extra for snooping software are relying on existing systems to make sure their employees are earning their paychecks. But these methods are even more intrusive than software specifically crafted to track telecommuter productivity.

“I’ve heard from multiple people whose employers have asked them to stay logged into a video call all day while they work,” said Alison Green, founder of the workplace-advice website Ask a Manager.

Slightly less intrusive than this low-tech "solution" is a new product that acts like a low-power CCTV camera installed by proxy in every telecommuting employees' home.

In order to keep productivity high while working remotely, some companies are turning to tools like Sneek. The software features a "wall of faces" for each office, which stays on throughout the workday and features constantly-updating photos of workers taken through their laptop camera every one to five minutes.

Welcome to micromanagement hell:

If a coworker clicks on their face, Sneek's default settings will instantly connect the two workers in a live video call, even if the recipient hasn't clicked "accept." However, people can also configure their settings to only accept calls manually — and only take webcam photos manually — if their employer allows it.

Chances are, none of these employees were subjected to supervisory visits to their desks every few minutes while at work. There's no reason for them to be subjected to it now just because they're working from home. The only reason this is happening is because it can happen. It's seamless, automated, and makes zero physical or mental demands from their employers.

If you can't trust your employees to work remotely, you probably can't trust them at the office either. And if there was any mutual respect between the employer and its employees, efforts like this will erode that very quickly. Employees who feel their employers don't trust them aren't too motivated to add value to the company they work for. Always-on surveillance isn't going to result in productivity. It will result in pointless busywork and a shit-ton of resentment.

Sneek's CEO Del Currie issued one of stupidest defense of pervasive surveillance of employees while defending his product from critics.

The purpose of Sneek isn't surveillance, Currie said, but office culture.

Currie claims a wall-of-faces that's continuously connected to each other (as well as their mutual supervisors) will keep people from feeling "isolated" while working from home. Currie may sincerely believe his remote work tool is better for employees' wellbeing, but it's doubtful most of the companies signing up for Sneek accounts to deal with newly-minted teleworkers are concerned about anything more than ensuring no one's getting paid to do nothing -- even if they've paid for plenty of hours of zero productivity back when everyone was under one roof.

Things aren't going to go back to normal once the coronavirus is under control. Employers may find they can still get work done without needing everyone in the same building breathing the same air. Some will find they can get the same amount done with fewer employees. The only constant will be the ability to invade their employees' homes to "ensure productivity" or "build office culture" or whatever. That will be here to stay.

Filed Under: bad boss, covid-19, employees, employers, surveillance, work at home


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 4:20am

    The purpose of Sneek isn't surveillance, Currie said, but office culture.

    So the purpose of Sneek is surveillance.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2020 @ 5:52am

      Re:

      The purpose of Sneek isn't surveillance, Currie said, but office culture.

      ... the culture of soviet East Germany.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Farto, 8 Apr 2020 @ 6:44am

        Re: Re:

        The culture of our current corporate dystopia.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2020 @ 11:30am

          Re: Re: Re: Corporate Dystopia

          This is exactly right.

          Picturing a nightmare Big Brother society of the future, we all envisioned a gray, brutalist landscape populated by almost identical drones suffering under the stamp-footed yoke of a dictatorial government. The resistance to this hegemony would be large but kept down by being ignored.

          Instead what we got was a loud, kaleidoscopic assault of bizarre imagery and babbling cacophony of dozens of polyglot languages spoken at once, every person a special individual person of special unique mix of deracinated genders and revolting sexual practices, and the death-of-a-thousand-cuts acceptance of minute little hall monitor-dictated regulations designed all these special individual from ever encountering an offensive ("hateful" or "bigoted") opinion. The system is fed from the snivelings and snifflings of crib-raised professional crybabies and whiners, kept running by incentivized tattletales, and enforced by the shrillest, least-feminine, and oddest-haired lady lawyers from a R. Crumb fever dream.

          The resistance to this is small and kept down by being ruthlessly hounded, hunted down, and terminated for thoughtcrime microaggressions against Clown World protected classes.

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          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 12:14pm

            "crybabies and whiners"

            ...dozens of polyglot languages...
            ...deracinated genders and revolting sexual practices...
            ...crib-raised professional crybabies and whiners...

            Reminder: You build a civilization from the people you have, not the people you wish you had.

            Also, any sizeable community is going to feel like an uncomfortable plurality. Even the Germans, Prussians and Austrians hated each other until they found themselves common enemies to scapegoat.

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          • identicon
            lizard person, 27 Apr 2020 @ 6:52pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Corporate Dystopia

            “If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you.”

            ― Lyndon B. Johnson

            absolutely fucking hilarious to me that there are serious people out there who think their miserable lives aren't due to being ruthlessly exploited by billionaires for profit, but rather somehow their misery is caused by random gay people and minimum wage workers with colored hair

            i suppose the idea that they are being manipulated by the people who are very obviously scorching the earth for the sake of their greed is a bit too much for that sort of person to handle, so instead they make up fantasy scapegoats

            you can either link up with other exploited people in solidarity, or terrible elites like me will enjoy feasting on you after you're liquated into soylent

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    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 12:29pm

      The purpose of Sneek is surveillance.

      The purpose of Sneek or any home-office surveillance system is to prevent Time Theft, a prevailing belief by industrialists that employees must spend every waking our on the clock towards the work effort, and anything they do on the clock that isn't a work effort (say, peeing, checking their make-up, petting a cat, talking to a child, checking their Facebook feed, and so on) is time stolen from the paying employer.

      Now there are actual studies that all these pauses between work vastly improve the efficiency of the work between those pauses (or rather, an environment that is hostile to breaks and self-care tends to vastly reduce work efficiency), but that doesn't change the management belief in time theft and the market that capitalizes on keeping employees focused like zombies on the living.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2020 @ 6:37am

        Re: The purpose of Sneek is surveillance.

        Funny how those standards are applied at the lowest income levels and are not seen above a certain grade. Where are those MBAs when it comes to figuring out who the lazy shits are?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2020 @ 4:55am

    why can't proof of output be the output?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 5:12am

      Re:

      "Managers using InterGuard’s software can be notified if an employee does a combination of worrisome behaviors, such as printing both a confidential client list and a resume, an indication that someone is quitting and taking their book of business with them."

      It could be a sign of this, but more concerning would be that the employee hasn't worked out LinkedIn or email yet and they're allowed to be able to print off a complete confidential list to their home printer.

      Maybe if companies were more willing to spend money on addressing these issues than buying some snake oil blocking software, they wouldn't have so much need to worry?

      “I’ve heard from multiple people whose employers have asked them to stay logged into a video call all day while they work,”

      In order to reduce the bandwidth available for other people in the household to distract them with netflix?

      "even if they've paid for plenty of hours of zero productivity back when everyone was under one roof"

      As people aren't wasting time and energy commuting and spending hours a week waiting around in physical meetings in a different office that nobody turns up for in time, they might actually be getting more hours of productivity for free than they ever did when the workers were in the office.

      "The purpose of Sneek isn't surveillance, Currie said, but office culture."

      Yes, and the culture in some offices is absolutely toxic.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2020 @ 5:01am

    These are the tools for managers who mistake activity for productivity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 5:22am

      Re:

      ...then wonder why their numbers are dropping after they got rid of the "slackers", and try to force the extra "lost" hours on the poor fools who stayed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2020 @ 5:33am

        Re: Re:

        .. then look surprised when discovering how much those slackers were doing for you.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 5:56am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Exactly. It's not true for everybody but often the "lazy, antisocial" guy gets more done in less time than the office politics player who's always eager to turn up for meetings.

          That's why so many corporate environments are a nightmare - the productive people who streamlined their work processes are canned along with their experience and knowledge, while the guy who didn't know anything other than how to make it look like he was ordering them around gets promoted.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2020 @ 5:12am

    Some of my coworkers installed mouse jigglers just to get around the ludicrously low sleep timer on their laptops, set by group policy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2020 @ 10:39am

      Re:

      I recommend the app "caffeine". It's free, portable, and doesn't need admin permissions to run. It sits in the system tray and can be double-clicked to activate/deactivate. It's similar to a mouse jiggler but ghosts an F15 keypress instead every 59 seconds. It's also got command line options to simulate different keys, use different timeouts, etc. It's available on OSX and Windows. I have admin rights on my work computer, but I still put a shortcut to caffeine in my startup folder just because it's more convenient than changing my timeout settings every time a group policy update resets them or whatever.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bratwurzt (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 5:49am

    The purpose of Sneek

    The purpose of Sneek isn't surveillance...

    Oh really? Surely the name doesn't imply anything nefarious. Maybe they should name it Clippy, since it's an intrusive office feature...

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2020 @ 5:54am

    Lesson 1 of working from home: Never let your employer install software on your computer. If they want to do that, they can bloody well issue you a laptop.

    Lesson 2 of working from home: If you're not actively in a meeting, have your camera covered. Nobody wants to discover what color underwear you're wearing underneath the pants you are not wearing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 3:36am

      Re:

      "Nobody wants to discover what color underwear you're wearing underneath the pants you are not wearing."

      You're assuming they're wearing underwear at all. I can envision a rapid end of enforced video-on conferencing after a sufficiently long spate of employee au naturel passive aggressivity.

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    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 9:34am

      Re:

      This. Your own computer is your own property, even if you use it to do work on. If your employer installs monitoring or blocking software on it, how can you ever be sure it's REALLY turned off when you clock out?

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  • icon
    Grey (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 6:59am

    My wife is a manager in the Insurance industry (workmen's comp) They do check to make sure people are working via laptop usage, but not this level of video intrusion.

    I respect when they have to video conference, I'm disabled to the point where long clothes pull my joints out of socket. I keep my own office sounds down to accommodate her calls, and wear noise cancelling headphones to prevent hearing sensitive information.

    If they want all day video surveillance, they can pay me to put on pants, or bear the brunt of their failure to think things through while they bleach their eyes with each passing of the Yeti.

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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 7:13am

    From the school of no wasted seconds, ICU out there

    Industry is taking it cues from the government. The surveillance state that is now being bolstered by the new 'pandemic bad' excuse puts the government in the position of being gigantic big brother, while the corporatist's are emulating that trend and becoming medium big brothers. It won't be long before this supporting role is incorporated by the giant.

    Micromanagement is a course I have never seen in a business school catalog, but I bet there are shelves and shelves of books along the lines of '17 most paranoid micromanagement techniques and how to implement them'.

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  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 7:19am

    I'm more worried about when law enforcement claims the surveillance records generated by an employer are third party records that they may peruse without a warrant.

    It's going to happen...it's just a matter if when.

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    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 9:37am

      Re:

      Exactly. And even if your employer claims they turn off the camera when you clock out, how can you ever be sure they're telling the truth?

      Even if your employer was telling you the truth, what stops law enforcement from using a gag order from turning it into a lie?

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  • icon
    Code Monkey (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 7:31am

    I'm NOT defending employee surveilance, but....

    I think the monitoring mentioned in the article is unethical at best, unprofessional at worst. HOWEVER....
    No one puts a gun to your head to accept the job offer. If you read your HR's employment guide, they usually mention that they monitor you and you accept that by signing the contract.

    And, to rub salt into the wound, most of us have to VPN into the company's network, or even at the point of logging into the computer, you get a popup that you HAVE to agree to by clicking, whether you read it or not. Usually worded something like:

    "This system is for authorized users only. Individual use of this computer system and/or network without authority, or in excess of your authority, is strictly prohibited. Monitoring of transmissions or transactional information may be conducted to ensure the proper functioning and security of electronic communication resources.

    Anyone using this system expressly consents to such monitoring and is advised that if such monitoring reveals possible criminal activity or policy violation, system personnel may provide the evidence of such monitoring to law enforcement or to other
    senior officials for disciplinary action, up to and including termination."

    So, again, the choice IS YOURS. Hobsen's choice, though it may be.

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 8:06am

      No one puts a gun to your head to accept the job offer.

      “You can take the job or you can worry about whether you’ll be living out of your car while you try to find another one.”

      It’s never that explicit, and it’s not the same thing as a literal gun, but the implication of “take this job or die in a gutter” is what stops a lot of people from refusing to take a job that will treat them like shit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 8:35am

      Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilance, but....

      "No one puts a gun to your head to accept the job offer"

      But, there is a metaphorical one put to your head if the choice is "work from home with this surveillance" or "try to claim unemployment and hope you get paid before you get evicted" in a country with poor employee protections and much of the population living within a couple of months from poverty (sometimes much less). In a country where your family's medical care might also be tied directly to your employer.

      "If you read your HR's employment guide, they usually mention that they monitor you and you accept that by signing the contract."

      Yes, and if your usual role does not include working form home (and under normal circumstances you're told you cannot do so), you might not have memorised that clause before you were hired. Nobody memorises the whole thing for every department, except maybe the HR people whose job it is to do so. Also, did you know those things constantly change in a lot of companies?

      "most of us have to VPN into the company's network... This system is for authorized users only... Monitoring of transmissions or transactional information may be conducted to ensure the proper functioning and security of electronic communication resources."

      First off, which system? That usually implies the server /network side is the thing you're agreeing to there, not the client, especially if the client you're using is your own property. Also, the programs in the article are explicitly adding things that wouldn't normally be monitored.

      "So, again, the choice IS YOURS."

      Yes, be reluctantly monitored and keep your wages/healthcare or join the 3+ million people who have just joined the unemployment queue in front of you and hope you can collect and nobody you love gets sick. The fact that most people are essentially forced to do the former is a problem far bigger than the individual.

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      • icon
        Code Monkey (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 10:02am

        Re: Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilance, but....

        "The fact that most people are essentially forced to do the former is a problem far bigger than the individual."

        Hence, my last line. "So, again, the choice IS YOURS. Hobsen's choice, though it may be."

        I completely agree with everyone's dissenting opinion of my screed. But until the laws catch up with worker's rights....

        Remember (2005? 2006?) when many employers demanded your Facebook credentials? At least THAT got shot down by the legislature... Or the government worker who was logged watching hours of porn from his work computer. (Idiot)

        To a very MINUSCULE extent, I can understand why SOME companies monitor their employees.

        I worked at <horrible third party administrator> for 5 years. It was not uncommon for me to walk down the row of cubes and see examiners on their Facebook pages or checking emails.

        THAT specific behaviour I can see as unproductive, from the employer's point of view. (Finally, they did block those websites, so that problem was solved.)

        Having said that....My original post title stands.

        When you're at work, you're supposed to be doing work shit. Not shopping Amazon.

        To reiterate, I agree that too many employers take monitoring to the EXTREME.

        .

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 10:43am

          When you're at work, you're supposed to be doing work shit.

          And when the “work shit” is done, employees should be allowed to handle the downtime between that pile of work being done and another pile of work being given to them however they wish (within reasonable limits, of course). People shouldn’t have to be made to do mindless busywork for eight hours a day so their boss will be happy about “productivity”. People can be active without being productive, after all.

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          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 11:08am

            Re:

            "People shouldn’t have to be made to do mindless busywork for eight hours a day"

            If fact, the odd bit of downtime here and there makes for a more productive employee. It's just that some people in the modern day choose to do that by checking their social media than wandering off to a break room or hang around for 10 minutes with their smoker mates.

            "People can be active without being productive, after all."

            I'd take someone who spends 2 hours updating a vital spreadsheet then checks FB for 30 mins than someone who takes 4 hours to update the same spreadsheet, any day.

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 11:00am

          Re: Re: Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilance, but....

          "I completely agree with everyone's dissenting opinion of my screed. But until the laws catch up with worker's rights...."

          ...the workers don't have much of a choice in this situation and it's wrong to be attacking them for making that choice.

          "THAT specific behaviour I can see as unproductive, from the employer's point of view."

          Depends on the employer. A good employer will know that people occasionally need a break, and it might be better them doing it on Facebook rather than heading outside for a smoke, going into the break room to make phone calls to people they could have been messaging on Facebook while doing work, and so on. A good employer will know how to motivate, assess and manage their performance without micromanaging.

          "When you're at work, you're supposed to be doing work shit. Not shopping Amazon."

          When you're at work, you often do things that aren't directly work related, and if you can do those without affecting performance who gives a shit? Also, I've been on Amazon, eBay and Facebook quite a lot over the years- as part of my paid role. Are you sure the people you're complaining about weren't updating the company social media pages or procuring some needed IT equipment? I know I've caught shit in the past because some nosy asshole didn't realise I was shopping around for company laptops or researching a potential new hire's reference claims.

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          • icon
            Code Monkey (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 12:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilance, but....

            "Are you sure the people you're complaining about weren't updating the company social media pages or procuring some needed IT equipment?"

            Absolutely. Their job was to process leave & disability claims.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 12:54pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilance, but.

              "Their job was to process leave & disability claims."

              So, they couldn't have been checking Facebook for information that proves the claims are false? I'm sure that if the guy claiming to be too crippled to work has a video of him playing football the day before on Facebook, the clerk in charge of their claim would count looking for that as among their paid duties. Even if they don't find such a video, they would presumably need to check rather than not bother and find out that video was shared after the claim was approved.

              Again, perhaps I'm wrong, I don't have the first hand information to make judgement on your experience. It's just that I can think of other reasons for what you are saying you saw, and that just because it's easier in the modern day to track Facebook use than it was slacking via smoke breaks or water cooler chats in the past, that doesn't mean that should never happen.

              The point is - what looks like slacking sometimes isn't, and being caught slacking does not mean that's what that person does all day. A good manager will understand the difference.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Code Monkey (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 6:52pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilance,

                I'll reserve my usual snark and answer you directly. NO, they weren't checking Facebook to see if someone was illegally claiming benefits. If you actually worked in the industry.....

                <no, no, hold the snark, he's ignorant>

                The employees in question were clearly reading their OWN Facebook posts, as the cubicles are laid out in such a way (2 monitors, side by side) that any one can CLEARLY see what they are viewing. Now that the job description has been clarified for you, they have a complete division of IT (part of what I used to do for the company ahem), that specializes in CID style investigations.

                The leave examiners spend their days entering data
                into the Total Absence Management System. They review medical reports from doctors, send out emails to claimants, contact doctors' offices to get the medical reports, etc. etc.

                And yes, I know you will invent some sort of twelve-levels-away-from-what-they-get-paid-to-do to justify your next "well, maybe they're......."

                I do agree that employees need breaks, and the company does provide 2 15 minute breaks and a half hour lunch. Also, the total work day is on 7 and a half hours, not 8. They also have more than enough work assigned to them to keep them busy for that long. It's the employees that took advantage and spent 3 hours of their day surfing the web, buying shit on Amazon and checking Facebook that ultimately ruined it for the rest of the people.

                And no, it wasn't ME who narced on them. I personally couldn't care less, since I'm not management. It was the IT Director( s ) who monitored their keystrokes and mouse clicks (yes, they record ALL of the mouse clicks and keyboard strokes), and the ensuing reports he decided to have run showing how much time was being spent actually using the software we write versus how much time they spend on Facebook, Amazon, et al.

                Satisfied? (No, probably not... :P )

                Fixed that for you

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 9:16pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilan

                  "I'll reserve my usual snark and answer you directly. NO, they weren't checking Facebook to see if someone was illegally claiming benefits."

                  As I said, I don't have your personal experience to judge, I am however sick of nosy, disruptive assholes making judgments based on half-assed assumptions getting people fucked over in industry and elsewhere. Whether it's IT staff getting reported for doing their jobs or people walking to the pharmacy for necessary medicine getting reported to police because idiot neighbours just assumed they were violating lockdown orders for a random walk (yes, both of these I've seen recently), it's a sore subject to me right now.

                  The fact that you've now furnished extra information that you couldn't be fucking bothered to mention in the first few posts changes things, but I could only react to your original words.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    Code Monkey (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 8:29am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm NOT defending employee surve

                    You seemed to be the only person who took umbrage to my OP. But,

                    I do see your point, now that you've explained why this while subject is a sore for you right now.

                    Many times commenters (myself included) feel as passionately as you about the subject and want to put in their 2 cents. I would guess that, like me, they just want to convey their thoughts (in anger or in agreement or in Schadenfreude, whatever), oftentimes without the underlying context that might elucidate their point.

                    This little exercise has certainly brought that to light for me. I'll do my best to comport my future comments accordingly.

                    Thanks for the extra information.

                    .

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                    • icon
                      PaulT (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 8:43am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm NOT defending employee s

                      No problem, just to clarify:

                      Your previous post seemed to imply "I saw some people on Facebook a lot and I assumed that meant they weren't working"

                      Your most recent post implied "A company I worked for investigated and found that a bunch of people were spending excessive time on Facebook after they were properly investigated"

                      Obviously, I have no problem with the latter, but a very big problem with the former.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • icon
                        Code Monkey (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 12:08pm

                        I'm NOT defending employee s

                        What I meant by my first comment that when I would get up to stretch my legs (I write code all day, I gotta get exercise), I would see people in the middle of posting to their Facebook pages. These people have 2 27" monitors, so, even at a comfortable distance away, it's very easy to discern what someone is doing. The building itself is secure, so I guess it didn't occur to anyone to put those cool 3M screen obscure filters on......

                        Anyway, to give even more (boring) detail, I did happen to have a conversation with someone who was not on my team, but who is a friend of mine. I walked by and said "Hey, how's it going?". Her response was "Oh, hey, sorry, just posting a new pic of my puppy. Isn't he soooooo cuuuuuute???" (Gotta admit, the pupper was cute).

                        No, I didn't narc her out. I did, however, lean in and whisper ("You know they track every mouse click and every keystroke, right?")

                        The look of shock on her face told me enough. But I added "Just sayin', you might want to do that on your phone......"

                        And, just like every contract we all blithely click "I've read all this crap", she also has to click Enter every damn day past the "This computer is monitored.....etc, etc."

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • icon
                          PaulT (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 11:45pm

                          Re: I'm NOT defending employee s

                          Yeah, as I said, with more information, context and details in the followup, it seems I made an incorrect conclusion about what you originally meant. However, I've experienced a lot of times where people working on the small amount of information you originally implied you have getting people pulled into disciplinary meetings on false pretenses. Nothing makes a competent tech quit faster than losing a bonus because some nosy snitch can't recognise their own company's Facebook page at 20 paces.

                          I'd still argue that "spends a lot of time on Facebook" does not necessarily imply "doesn't do the work they're paid to do", but the additional information and context you provided at least points toward some proper investigation before disciplinary action was taken,

                          "But I added "Just sayin', you might want to do that on your phone......""

                          ...and that's another problem. You didn't encourage people to change their behaviour by doing that, you just helped them find a loophole. Which judging from my experience, will later be used as an excuse to either force surveillance of private property or ban mobile phones from the workplace altogether (thus causing major problems for people who need them for genuine reasons - have you ever tried arguing with management about 2FA costs when they just demanded both no mobiles and no budget for additional 2FA devices? Fun.)

                          "And, just like every contract we all blithely click "I've read all this crap", she also has to click Enter every damn day past the "This computer is monitored.....etc, etc.""

                          Yes, and this is another problem going back to your original comment - nobody reads through EULAs the first time they have to click on one, let alone checks them regularly for any changes. It doesn't serve them right for not taking the unemployment line over and above having their home surveilled, even if it was buried somewhere in the small print about the working from home they were constantly told they would never be doing. I bet the people you're talking about were refused even the option of working from home, at least right up to the point they were forced to.

                          Also going back to that first comment - yesterday it was announced that another 6.6 million people joined the unemployment queues in the last week alone. Can you honestly not see the metaphorical gun to the heads of people who cannot afford to do that, even assuming they actually get paid?

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2020 @ 4:33pm

          Re: Re: Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilance, but....

          Websites would be blocked until people figured out a way around it using a home VPN

          And there is a trick where you can use your home VPN even it VPN ports are blocked.

          I know this becuase I find a hole in the system used at a Taco Bell once. I would log onto my SSL VPN on my home network on port 443, and then log onto my PPTP vpn by using the internal address of the VPN server on my network instead of the external address. I would put 192.168.1.1 instead of the external address for the VPN on my network and Taco Bell's firewall let it through.

          You might be able to do that from your work network. Just put SoftEther on one of the machines on your home network, and then log in to the SSL VPN on port 443 and then use the internal address on your home network for your PPTP VPN and it will go right through

          The reason that hold is there is becyuase firewalls do not block 192.168.x.x addresses and they are internal addresses to a network.

          Your company firewall will not know that the VPN you are accessing is outside the network, just like Taco Bell's firewall, and it let it right through because their firewall did not know the difference.

          And, no, I did not break any Federal law or California state laws by using that hole to circumvent blocking of VPNs on Taco Bell's wifi

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 6:19am

        Re: Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilance, but....

        "Yes, be reluctantly monitored and keep your wages/healthcare or join the 3+ million people who have just joined the unemployment queue in front of you and hope you can collect and nobody you love gets sick."

        Oh, and just to update this one - I've just seen it reported that another 6.6 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last week, 16.8 million in total in the last 3 weeks.

        https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/09/830216099/6-6-million-more-file-fo r-unemployment-as-coronavirus-keeps-economy-shut?t=1586438145310

        So yes, you're goddamned right there's a gun to peoples' heads to stick with their job, especially as the US has the idiotic fact that healthcare is tied into employment for most people.

        Meanwhile the country I live in has universal healthcare and has announced they're seriously considering UBI in the aftermath of all this.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Code Monkey (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 12:18pm

          ...defending employee surveilance, but....

          According to your profile, you're living in Spain. Out of curiosity, how does the government pay for the healthcare?

          No snark intended. I was wondering what tax rate does your employer take out of your check? Or, does the government use income derived from the VAT (that's still a thing in the EU, isn't it?)

          Universal Healthcare in concept is great. I'm a fence sitter on this one. I've heard strong arguments for and against.

          I was just wondering how the country pays for it. And, are there waiting lists for surgical procedures? Again, I hear stories on both sides of that one, too.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 12:46pm

            How do we pay for it?

            I assume that like the US they could simply go to war less for major industrial interests. Also stop subsidizing blue chip industries like big oil.

            But I personally don't know Spain.

            What I do know is that every time the EU has pushed for an austerity response to a suffering nation it's ended badly and grossed everyone out with all the suffering, and they keep promising to stop doing that.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 11:57pm

            Re: ...defending employee surveilance, but....

            "According to your profile, you're living in Spain. Out of curiosity, how does the government pay for the healthcare?"

            Taxes, which usually take up less of the salary of the average employee than the average American pays for private insurance (the latter being run by people paid to deny claims should you need to make one). The form of payment is a little complicated, as I understand it there's a combination of income taxes and social security payments, and the nature of autonomous regions obfuscates a few issues, but overall most people are much happier with it than they would be in the American system - as they are in most universal healthcare locations.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_care_in_Spain

            "Or, does the government use income derived from the VAT (that's still a thing in the EU, isn't it?)"

            VAT is specifically a British term, (the local name is Spain is IVA, but it means the same thing). But, yes, it's included in the price of most items as sold. I don't believe that specific tax is used to fund healthcare, but Europeans are more likely to obsess over value for money as opposed to the overall price (whereas Americans will often obsess over lowering the number rather than demand better value for money)

            " And, are there waiting lists for surgical procedures?"

            Yes, as there are in America. They just look different depending on location and procedure. Plus, there's nothing to stop you getting private healthcare insurance on top of the public option. You just don't lose access to the public option you also pay for should the private care be too expensive of refuse a procedure.

            Basically, there's good and bad in the system as with any other system. However, nobody here has their healthcare tied to a specific job, while in the US many people are working bad jobs specifically for the healthcare benefits. Which is why so many would accept 24/4 surveillance of their home by their employer rather than quit.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Code Monkey (profile), 10 Apr 2020 @ 10:15am

              Re: Re: ...defending employee surveilance, but....

              Excellent points all, sir! Thank you for the clarification. My sister is a British citizen now, which is why the term "VAT" stuck in mind.

              Thanks for the reading material as well! I will have some more interesting reading this weekend. Thanks again.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 10 Apr 2020 @ 10:54am

                Re: Re: Re: ...defending employee surveilance, but....

                No problem, it's always good to keep an eye on what's happening elsewhere! It can be confusing, but the main thing to keep in mind is that most healthcare costs us $0 here at the point we need to claim, and it doesn't require us to be in a specific job to contribute. I also have private healthcare with my job, but if I quit tomorrow I could still claim on the public system.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 3:40am

      Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilance, but....

      "If you read your HR's employment guide, they usually mention that they monitor you and you accept that by signing the contract."

      Which is usually where unions - or even legislation - may come in and tell the employer there are limits as to what they may reasonably ask of their employees.

      This concept is part of something called "business ethics".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Code Monkey (profile), 9 Apr 2020 @ 1:06pm

        Re: Business ethics

        I agree that employers should abide by "business ethics". Sadly, I do not believe that "business ethics" is defined anywhere in the canons of law.

        What one company finds abhorrent another company shrugs off as "M'eh, nothing wrong with that....."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 10 Apr 2020 @ 12:03am

          Re: Re: Business ethics

          "Sadly, I do not believe that "business ethics" is defined anywhere in the canons of law."

          Hence the need for proper employee protections, regulations, oversight, etc. There some interesting studies out there that state that if a corporation was a person, it would be classed as a sociopath.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2020 @ 6:45am

      Re: I'm NOT defending employee surveilance, but....

      "No one puts a gun to your head to accept the job offer."
      Are you sure about that? In what countries?
      Do you need to eat and shelter? How does one accomplish this?
      The answers to these and many more questions will not be provided by those who wish to enslave.

      "So, again, the choice IS YOURS"
      Choice to what ... leave the country? How easy is the to do when you have no resources? Hell - it is near impossible for some to gtfo of NYC.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Thad (profile), 8 Apr 2020 @ 8:37am

    On top of everything else that's wrong with this, I can't help thinking "Jesus, what a waste of bandwidth."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 8 Apr 2020 @ 12:45pm

    This might actually benefit me...

    My work laptop is so decrepit the web cam doesn't even work. Maybe someone will finally agree to send me a replacement so their software can monitor me.

    At which point, I'll tape over the camera lens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2020 @ 9:37pm

      Re: This might actually benefit me...

      Taping over the camera lens was something i was about to suggest

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2020 @ 1:42pm

      Re: This might actually benefit me...

      You can disable the camera
      https://www.lifewire.com/disable-a-webcam-2640489

      But in the east, Korea/China/Viet Nam, etc., the kids are getting smart.

      I just saw a video where a kid filmed himself looking like he was working diligently, and aimed his school camera at a nonsense feed of him acting like he was being attentive.

      This works, because any/every security camera voyeur HATES watching these films.

      A nice social exploit that can be used repeatedly, with variations.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Apr 2020 @ 1:56pm

    As far as CCTV cameras go, if employers are actually requiring a camera in installed in your home ii can be jammed and these jammers are legal

    To their boss it would look like a malfunction and he would never know you were using a jammet

    There are jammers that can wireless cameras using the 900, 1299, and 2400 Mhz bands.

    Jsmm8ng these cameras does not break any laws.

    One use for this is to jam unauthorized cameras that voyeurs and other nefarious people put in hotel rooms without the hotel's knowledge

    One business partner I had used these when taking her daughters to Disneyland.

    She would the jamnwr on when any of them used the bathroom or took a bath so that any unauthorized cameras there would be jammed and unable to film them in the bathroom

    She did not break any laws when she used that jammer to protect her daughters. Jamming 900, 1200, and 2400 Mhz wireless cameras does not break any federal law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ROGjeezuS, 9 Apr 2020 @ 11:37am

    for the life of Christ

    Fer the life of christ, even the rationalists, sceptics, atheists, agnostics, deists what have you-that whole alphabet soup of folks still cannot stop thinking about the Jesus.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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