Employee Surveillance Technology: Are You Using It Responsibly?
As employee surveillance technology has become cheaper and easier to implement, many companies have begun to turn to the technology to keep an eye on their employees, reduce workplace theft and boost productivity. Right now, around 17 percent of companies worldwide are using the technology to monitor computer use and 22 percent are using employee-movement data to track their employees.
However, it’s not difficult for businesses to end up using workforce data unethically — or in ways that create new privacy or security risks for both employees and the businesses they work for.
Below, we’ll cover common applications of employee surveillance and how you can tell if your business is applying this technology responsibly.
How Employee Surveillance Can Go Wrong
Right now, there aren’t really laws guaranteeing employees privacy or data security rights in the workplace. This can be both positive and negative for employers. On one hand, they can have a lot of control over what kind of data they’re allowed to collect.
On the other hand, there are no regulations guiding or structuring their data collection — which makes acting ethically even more important.
There are concerns that surveillance tech can be an overreach and a violation of employee’s privacy at work — and that holding on to employee data is unethical, especially in the wake of numerous high-profile data breaches last year.
Extreme levels of surveillance can also have other knock-on effects — like increasing workplace stress, lower job satisfaction and even decreased productivity. Extreme or overbearing surveillance can also encourage employees to adjust their habits based on the technology that’s surveilling them — which can make them worse at solving problems.
Business leaders seem aware of the problem — among employers that use employee data, less than one-third feel that they’re using that data responsibly, according to research from Accenture.
Fortunately, there are ways that any business can improve its use of workforce data and employee surveillance tech.
Using Employee Surveillance Tech Responsibly
To start, your business should be aware of the cybersecurity concerns that data storage can pose.
Confidential or identifying employee data — information pulled from emails, calendars, social media profiles and so on — will need to be guarded just as safely as sensitive customer data. Otherwise, your business could risk exposing the data of your employees to hackers and cybercriminals.
When handling workforce data, your company should follow cybersecurity best practices — like controlling network access, limiting data stored and encrypting info.
Unless data is needed for your business’s surveillance goals your IT team probably shouldn’t be holding on to it. While advanced tech can track almost everything an employee does — including their movements, conversations and computer keystrokes — storing and analyzing that data can negatively impact trust in addition to creating potential security risks.
If for whatever reason your business does need to store employee data to meet its goals, the proper security safeguards should be in place.
It can also be good to clearly communicate the scale and scope of data collection to employees. In a recent survey of staff in UK workplaces that use employee data, more than 60 percent of workers reported fears that their data may be being misused based on data scandals at other companies.
Even if your business is using employee data responsibly, bad examples from other companies can be discouraging to employees. Keeping staff in the loop and demonstrating where data collection starts and stops can help to maintain employee-employer trust.
Keeping Employee Monitoring Responsible and Safe
The use of employee surveillance has grown significantly over the past few years as employers have looked for new ways to limit theft or damage, improve worker productivity and better monitor their staff. However, the use of technology has also raised concerns that most businesses aren’t using workforce data ethically and may not be the best stewards of the data they’re holding on to.
In general, businesses can benefit from keeping surveillance scope limited and only tracking data that are needed to improve productivity or efficiency or to fulfill the goal of their surveillance plan.
When storing data, businesses should be sure that they are doing so because it fits into their goals, rather than just because the technology allows for it. Otherwise, your business can risk damaging employee trust or exposing their data to hackers and cybercriminals.