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Mark A. Stein: There's probably creepy software on your work laptop

Mark A. Stein, on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Last April, just as employers had sent millions of office employees home to work remotely, they went on a buying binge of creepy software with names like Controlio, Sneek and StaffCop — the better to monitor your every keystroke from afar.

Orders for such programs soared 87% in April. These kinds of software programs enable your employer to:

— Read your email

—Peruse any personal files on the laptop

—Collect screenshots of what you look at

—Watch you via your laptop’s camera


—Log every keystroke, including, in some cases, the time between keystrokes when you — oh, I don’t know, go down the hall to the bathroom or fix yourself a sandwich.

One bank employee in London, on condition his name not be used, remarked: “Employees are worried to step away from their desks, have full lunch breaks, take bathroom breaks or even get up for water as we are not aware of the repercussions this might have on our statistics.”

It’s one more Covid-related career hassle to think about. Your best bet for avoiding trouble — and a gross invasion of your privacy — is to conduct only work activities on your work laptop and use a separate computer for all personal stuff. If your employer hasn’t issued you a laptop, but your personal unit is hooked up to the company servers, assume they’re watching.

There are no federal laws and very few state statutes that limit how far employers can go in monitoring workers on or off the job, and managers have wide latitude to fire anyone who resists using a computer equipped with spyware — or refuses to have it installed on a personal computer they use at work.


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