All the ways you are being monitored due to COVID-19 – Community News
Covid-19

All the ways you are being monitored due to COVID-19

The days of working from home while lazing in a sweat and cuddling with your pandemic pet may be over.

Now employers want to make sure you are as productive as possible — by using surveillance technology.

Since the start of the pandemic, demand for employee surveillance measures has increased by 54%, according to research from the online privacy review site Top10VPN.

Big companies are trying to enforce job tracking through new technologies — such as Amazon’s truck monitoring technology or Microsoft’s productivity scoring software — that have been widely criticized.

Some employers have implemented virtual monitoring with programs such as Time Doctor or StaffCop, which can record keystrokes, view screens, take over a computer remotely, see employee locations, record audio, and more.

While people may be used to their Amazon Echo smart speakers listening to their commands, they’re not too keen on being constantly spied on by employers.

Earlier this month, Mattel came under fire for noting in an outside job posting that the company may make “unscheduled visits” to home offices.

“Hard, hard no,” says Sen. Mallory McMorrow in Michigan wrote on Twitter. “Once the work is done and you’re an active part of the team, who cares what your home workspace looks like?! What is there to inspect?”

While many were adamant against such invasions, others pointed out why the policy exists.

“It’s being pushed by insurance companies,” another user posted, who wrote that his contract as a federal employee is subject to such requirements. The tweeter (who did not respond to The Post’s request for comment) went on to say that if an employee is injured on the job, insurance companies should know it happened at home.

Yet the thought of being watched is enough to make some people quit their jobs.

A mother, who declined to give her name and previously worked for a university in Illinois as a social media manager, told The Post that she quit her job in October on the promise of more supervision while she now worked from home. one month old son, born in August 2020.

When he turned 1 and she was still working remotely, employees were given six weeks notice to return to the office full-time.

She says she couldn’t find a suitable shelter at the time, especially one that required “vaccination for their staff.”

Then her employer started a new initiative: letting employees work from home, but with reservations.

In September, employees who wanted to work from home were asked to fill out a form describing their job, their home office and what kind of childcare their family arranged, to make sure they weren’t the primary caregivers.

“As someone who has been working from home throughout the pandemic with a brand new baby – I never let my job slip and was always available when I needed to be available – it was quite an insult,” she said.

When she followed up with human resources, she said she was told home inspections would take place with “reasonable” advance notice and that the company did not want employees to commit “time theft” while working remotely.

“I decided it was for the best” [for me] to leave my job, especially in light of the work-from-home policies they have rolled out,” she said. “They really seemed to want to push the privacy envelope.”

Ari E. Waldman, a law and computer science professor at Northeastern University, told The Post via email that these kinds of requirements are common.

“If you’re looking for a federal law that prohibits employers from continuously, intrusively and unnecessarily monitoring employees, you won’t find it,” he wrote. “Since the industrial revolution, monitoring of workers has been common.”

Employers watch as employees work from home
Constantly being watched when they work from home was enough to make some people quit their jobs.

Even students are subject to virtual supervision during distance learning and exams.

New York University uses ProctorU, an online surveillance service that uses webcams and student screen-sharing technology to ensure ethical review while students are away.

Last year, the faculty of UC Santa Barbara called on the chancellor to stop using ProctorU. involves the university in becoming a surveillance tool.”

Eye-tracking technology is used by some remote monitoring programs to ensure that students don’t constantly look away from their screens, as if checking their notes. In other words, don’t even think about getting up to go to the bathroom or grab a snack.

In Pennsylvania, law students taking the bar exam expressed outrage that ExamSoft failed to consider people with diabetes, despite test takers submitting medical waivers in advance.

They also requested an investigation into ExamSoft over privacy and data breach concerns, claiming unusual activity was discovered on their personal and financial accounts days after using the software.

ExamSoft later responded to a letter from the US Senate asking about its practices, stating that it is a “secure review platform.”

Last year, Miami University student Erik Johnson took to Twitter to voice his concerns about the software Proctorio, which was used for his online tests. He noted that the program included recordings of his study space and home. “A Proctorio agent will review and verify the test taker’s room scan,” he wrote of a warning he received, underlining that not only his professor would have access to his information.

Despite the potential risks of privacy loss, these online proctoring programs aren’t even necessarily accurate. A third of students who took the California online cafe exam in October 2020 were flagged for cheating — more than a thousand people — according to a Bloomberg Law report. 90% of the ones that were originally marked were later erased.

More worrisome for Waldman is as children become accustomed to this kind of proctoring.

“The more often surveillance software is used in educational settings, the more desensitized young people will be to surveillance as they grow up and enter the job market,” Waldman said. “It’s all part of the plan: Tech companies want to make intrusive monitoring of every movement a part of our daily lives, like brushing our teeth or putting on shoes.”