Employee monitoring software — known as “bossware” — is becoming widespread and problematic for workers, according to The Guardian.
Zoë Corbyn, who specializes in science, technology and research, explained how companies spy on their workers to track productivity — at times without their consent.
Companies are hard at work expanding and evolving bossware to create continuous monitoring of employees’ digital activities, especially since the number of people working remotely rose during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bossware can log keystrokes, note websites visited, capture screenshots, record mouse movements, and activate webcams or microphones.
Some monitoring software includes artificial intelligence and algorithm components to evaluate the data collected.
“The rise of monitoring software is one of the untold stories of the COVID pandemic,” Andrew Pakes, deputy general secretary of Prospect Union, a U.K. labor union, told The Guardian.
Prior to the pandemic, remote positions accounted for less than 4% of high-paying jobs in North America. According to Forbes, that figure jumped to over 15% and is anticipated to reach 25% by the end of the year.
A Digital.com survey last fall of 1,250 American employers with some or all employees working remotely found the use of monitoring software is most prevalent in advertising and marketing (83%), computer and information technology (77%), construction (71%), business and finance (60%), manufacturing (60%) and personal care services (52%).
The survey also found 88% of employers terminated workers after implementing monitoring software. A quarter of employers terminated between one and 10 workers after monitoring their work habits, while 21% terminated between 51 and 100 employees.
‘It is not right, it is not human’
Privacy advocates and workers are concerned that intensified tracking normalizes extreme workplace surveillance and digital supervision.
Employees may not be aware of how much and what kind of data is being tracked.
Remote work advocate and computer programmer David Heinemeier Hansson is vocal in his rejection of bossware.