When technology makes it possible to monitor remote employees

Does my boss secretly monitor me when I work remotely? The technologies allow bosses to spy on their employees, a practice that is developing in the United States, but is largely regulated by law in France, where unions are on the alert.

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There’s no shortage of ways to know if Teams is working, from the “connected” light on work email to spyware.

When the latter is installed on employees’ computers, nothing can escape them thanks to techniques such as logging of keystrokes or even screenshots sent to the boss every five minutes.

The closures have boosted the activity of companies specialized in this field around the world. One of them, American Hubstaff, claims on its website nearly 600,000 active customers worldwide. However, this software is illegal in France because it does not comply with data protection regulations.

In this area, recalls Xavier Delport, director of research at the National Commission for Information Technologies and Liberties (CNIL), responsible in France for ensuring the protection of people’s data. and “it’s all about proportion” in its use.

Among these devices, for example, “the filtering of access to certain websites, for security reasons, should not deviate towards regular checking of sites frequented by the employee,” recalls Mr. Delport.

CNIL notes that “complaints about remote computer monitoring tools are rare.” In 2021, “fewer than ten” complaints about this were filed by employees of the French personal data police.

Xavier Delporte says most of the complaints recorded (“more than 80%)” relate to ‘traditional video surveillance’ in the workplace, not malicious use of spyware or a secretly triggered webcam. Of the remaining 20%, part is related to location identification Geographical vehicle of the company.


However, unions have in their sights secret spyware, designed not to be detected by employees. Sophie Binet, General Secretary of the CEO’s Union, notes that “these means are so intrusive and prudent that some will never know they are under surveillance.”

It also elicits more traditional monitoring tactics, such as sudden calls from superiors or censures to employees when they don’t appear to be “online” during work hours.

For Bertrand Mahe, a representative of another national union, the “temptation” to spy on his teams reflects above all a failed administration. “There are certainly drifts on the part of the employees, but they are as rare as on the management side,” he says.

The unionist attributes to the extent of the “watch culture”, which is more common in his view in small businesses due to the small size of the workforce and the lack of knowledge of the law.

Be that as it may, all methods that make it possible to believe that an employee is task-focused are misleading, according to Bertrand Mahe, who asserts that “the link between hours of availability and efficiency has not yet been proven”.

He asserts that “controlling employees is counterproductive and above all risks transferring the manager’s pressure to his teams.” For him, it’s a practice that runs counter to “increasing productivity” for employees as put forward by the spyware developers.

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