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Your boss is watching you: Why more companies are spying on workers

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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of employee surveillance technology by companies has surged. Even as many employees have resumed office work, firms continue to monitor them closely. On Friday, June 14, reports emerged that Wells Fargo dismissed over a dozen employees accused of “simulating keyboard activity” rather than working.

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Wells Fargo has not disclosed whether the terminated employees were working from home or in the office, although the company generally requires in-person attendance three days a week.

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Over the past four years, workers have increasingly sought ways to circumvent employers’ monitoring of their remote work, sharing tips on social media regarding how to appear busy. Devices such as “mouse jigglers,” which keep the cursor moving, and keyboard “clickers,” which simulate typing, have become popular, with some selling for as little as $10 on Amazon.

Recently, however, such tactics have come under scrutiny. Wells Fargo is not alone in its intensive monitoring practices; companies like JP Morgan, Barclays, and UnitedHealth Group track a wide range of employee activities, from emails to keystrokes, and even eye movements and screen captures.

A recent Harvard Business Review study indicates that such surveillance may be counterproductive. The study found that monitored employees are more prone to rule-breaking and may even damage or steal company property.

The researchers argue that surveillance can undermine an individual’s moral compass, leading to unethical behavior. They advocate for a work environment based on trust and autonomy rather than control through surveillance.

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[SIMONE DEL ROSARIO]

IS YOUR BOSS SPYING ON YOU? 

SINCE WORKERS FIRST SHIFTED HOME AT THE START OF THE PANDEMIC, COMPANY USE OF EMPLOYEE SURVEILLANCE TECH HAS EXPLODED.

AND EVEN THOUGH MANY EMPLOYEES HAVE RETURNED TO OFFICE AT LEAST SOME OF THE TIME, COMPANIES ARE STILL KEEPING TRACK, AND APPARENTLY CRACKING DOWN ON SLACKERS. 

THIS WEEK WE LEARNED WELLS FARGO CANNED MORE THAN A DOZEN EMPLOYEES AFTER IT SAID THEY WERE “SIMULATING KEYBOARD ACTIVITY” INSTEAD OF WORKING.

THE BANK DIDN’T REVEAL WHETHER THE WORKERS WERE IN OFFICE OR AT HOME. A WIDER COMPANY POLICY IS TO BE IN PERSON THREE DAYS A WEEK. 

IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS, WORKERS HAVE BECOME MORE RESOURCEFUL WHEN IT COMES TO DECEIVING EMPLOYERS’ ATTEMPTS TO MONITOR THEIR ACTIVITY. 

SOCIAL MEDIA IS FILLED WITH TIPS TO GET AWAY WITH APPEARING BUSY.

LIKE “MOUSE JIGGLERS THAT MOVE YOUR CURSOR WHILE YOU’RE GONE.” SOME SELLING AS LOW AS 10 BUCKS.

“THIS IS THE USB ‘MOUSE JIGGLER’ FROM METANTY. IT COMES IN THIS NICE SMALL PACKAGE HERE.”

THERE ARE ALSO KEYBOARD “CLICKERS” THAT SIMULATE TYPING – HITTING RANDOM BUTTONS TO FOOL YOUR BOSS.

BUT RECENTLY – ALL THAT CLICKING AND JIGGLING IS GETTING NOTICED. 

WELLS FARGO ISN’T THE ONLY COMPANY BLURRING THE LINES BETWEEN WORK AND PRIVACY.

J-P MORGAN, BARCLAYS AND UNITEDHEALTH GROUP TRACK EVERYTHING FROM EMAILS TO KEYSTROKES. SOME COMPANIES EVEN TRACK EYE MOVEMENT AND TAKE SCREENSHOTS.

A RECENT STUDY BY THE HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW SHOWS COMPANIES SPY ON EMPLOYEES AT THEIR OWN RISK. THE STUDY SAYS MONITORED WORKERS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BREAK RULES AND DAMAGE OR STEAL WORKPLACE PROPERTY. RESEARCHERS ALSO SAY SPYING HURTS A PERSON’S “MORAL COMPASS”– LEADING TO BAD BEHAVIOR. INSTEAD, THEY SUGGEST A WORK ENVIRONMENT BUILT ON TRUST AND AUTONOMY OVER SURVEILLANCE CONTROL. 

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