Survey: Many Companies Monitoring, Recording, Videotaping Employees

Statistics show rise in surveillance of workers

From computer monitoring and telephone taping to video surveillance and GPS satellite tracking, employers are using policy and technology to manage productivity and protect resources. To motivate employee compliance, companies increasingly are putting teeth in technology policies. Fully 26% have fired workers for misusing the Internet. Another 25% have terminated employees for e-mail misuse. And 6% have fired employees for misusing office telephones. That's according to the 2005 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey from American Management Association (AMA) and The ePolicy Institute.

Internet, E-Mail, IM & Blogging

When it comes to workplace computer use, employers are primarily concerned about inappropriate Web surfing, with 76% monitoring workers' Website connections. Fully 65% of companies use software to block connections to inappropriate Websites--a 27% increase since 2001 when AMA and ePolicy Institute last surveyed electronic monitoring and surveillance policies and procedures in the workplace.

Computer monitoring takes various forms, with 36% of employers tracking content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard. Another 50% store and review employees' computer files. Companies also keep an eye on e-mail, with 55% retaining and reviewing messages.

Employers are doing a good job of notifying employees when they are being watched. Of those organizations that engage in monitoring and surveillance activities, fully 80% inform workers that the company is monitoring content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard; 82% let employees know the company stores and reviews computer files; 86% alert employees to e-mail monitoring; and 89% notify employees that their Web usage is being tracked.

''Concern over litigation and the role electronic evidence plays in lawsuits and regulatory investigations has spurred more employers to implement electronic technology policies,'' said Nancy Flynn, executive director of The ePolicy Institute and author of E-Mail Rules (AMACOM 2003), Instant Messaging Rules (AMACOM 2004) and other books related to workplace computer use. Employers have established policies governing personal e-mail use (84%); personal Internet use (81%); personal instant messenger (IM) use (42%); operation of personal Web sites on company time (34%); personal postings on corporate blogs (23%); and operation of personal blogs on company time (20%).

''Workers' e-mail, IM, blog and Internet content creates written business records that are the electronic equivalent of DNA evidence,'' said Flynn, noting that one in five employers has had e-mail subpoenaed by courts and regulators and another 13% have battled workplace lawsuits triggered by employee e-mail, according to last year's Workplace E-Mail & IM Survey from AMA and ePolicy Institute. ''To help control the risk of litigation, security breaches and other electronic disasters, employers should take advantage of technology tools to battle people problems--including the accidental and intentional misuse of computer systems, telephones and other electronic resources,'' Flynn said.

Telephone, Cell Phones, Camera Phones & Voice Mail

Concerned about inappropriate telephone use, 57% of employers block access to 900 lines and other unauthorized phone numbers. The number of employers who monitor the amount of time employees spend on the phone and track the numbers called has jumped to 51%, up from 9% in 2001. The percentage of companies that tape phone conversations has also grown in the past four years. In 2001, 9% of companies recorded workers' phone calls. Today, 19% tape the calls of employees in selected job categories, and another 3% record and review all employees' phone chat.

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