Ceding privacy for a paycheck: 78% of companies monitor employees

April 18,2018

Whether you are on the phone or computer, or in the supply closet, at work, chances are that you are being watched or recorded—or both, based on a report this week by ABCNews.Go.

According to new data from an annual workplace survey conducted by the American Management Association, nearly 80% of major companies now monitor employees’ use of e-mail, Internet or phone.

That figure represents a substantial uptick from 1997, when just 35% of businesses kept tabs on their workers—although employees have the same access now to email and the Internet that they had 20 years ago.

The AMA study was conducted among 1,627 large and mid-sized firms that are its members and clients—and  which, cumulatively, employ over 25%r of the U.S. workforce.

The survey also found that companies have increased monitoring across the board within the past couple of decades. Sixty-three percent now watch Internet usage and 47% review e-mails—a significant increase from 54% and 38%, respectively, in 1997.

In addition, more companies today are blocking social media and other sites that they deem inappropriate, in an effort to control employee “offenses”—and fully 25% say that they have fired employees for misuse of business email or the Internet.

“It’s not just a matter of corporate curiosity, but very real worries about productivity and liability that push these policies,” Eric Rolfe Greenberg, director of Management Studies for the AMA, told ABC.

“Personal e-mail can clog a company’s telecommunications system, and sexually explicit or other inappropriate material downloaded from the Internet can lead to claims of a hostile work environment,” he added.

Typically, the larger the company, the more incentive it has to check up on its employees, the survey found.

The financial sector — banks, brokerages, insurance and real estate — was the most vigilant, reporting that 92.1% of firms participate in some form of surveillance.

More than three-quarters of those who work in wholesale and retail, manufacturing, business and professional services and other non-profit organizations also were subjected to surveillance.

Finally, the AMA said that most companies tend to carry out spot checks rather than monitor workers constantly. However, that’s little comfort to employees, for whom the right to privacy has been ceded in exchange for a paycheck.

Research contact: customerservice@amanet.org

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