The Increasing Lack of Privacy in the Workplace
To gain a competitive advantage, companies have turned to rapidly emerging technologies in order to increase productivity and profits. Most companies cannot imagine surviving without email (Hayday) and local area networks, however it is this same technology that diminishes the productivity of many employees. Research shows that an average employee in the U.S. spends almost an hour (Rosencrance) and close to two and a half hours in the UK (Reuters) a day on the Internet, during work hours. In addition to decreased employee productivity, the companies are concerned with their reputation, image and financial liability arising from employees' actions on company owned computers. These activities include file sharing, email containing discriminating content, and web-surfing on unsuitable sites. In response to employees' behavior, companies are trying to combat inappropriate use of company resources with various surveillance systems. However, such systems can and often infringe on employees' privacy.
Employees are often not informed of the monitoring systems in place. Such systems can run in stealth mode concurrently with the rest of the programs, while sending periodical reports, or even screenshots of the individual's activity to the boss. (Wallace) Such private information can expose the employee's personal life to the management and result in unfair treatment. Furthermore, the topics explored by the employee are often very secret and "may suggest to the management that you're a battered wife or HIV positive or half of a disintegrating marriage," (Keller) which truthfully is nobody's business.
Nonetheless, analysis conducted by the comScore Media Metrix revealed that a third of all incoming traffic to the top ten sites for personals come from at-work internet users. (A Discrete) The employers attempt to cut down on wasted pay time by installing programs to record keystrokes, document visited websites, and scan emails.