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Corporations Monitor Your Movements – Off Work

It comes to no surprise to most people that corporate Human Resources departments work in conjunction with IT to monitor employee activities at the workplace.

They monitor your movements with keycards and video cameras; they register when you log in and out of your work computer; and they even track your keystrokes, your email (including your personal account) and web browsing on their workstations. It can be argued that they have the right, as it is their equipment and you are on company time. However, more and more workers are being spied on and manipulated by Human Resources in more insidious ways, and they probably don’t even know it. Here are five.

1. They monitor your personal electronics.

Many companies allow employees to use their own cell phones, tablets and computers for work purposes, instead of providing these devices. Employees like this because their work life and personal life can coexist on a single device and they can use the phone, tablet or computer of their choice. This is often referred to as Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD. However, employees are often asked to install device management software on their devices, and are pressured into signing vague user policies that give the company the right to monitor and access the devices.

The most common reason companies give for installing device management software is that it allows them to wipe out all the data on the phone if it is ever lost or stolen. Not only does that include corporate email, contacts and other communications, it also includes personal contacts, photographs, text messages, music and apps installed on the phone. If that sounds bad, it gets much worse, Human Resources departments have directed IT personnel to completely wipe a phone if an employee has suddenly quit or been fired.

But sometimes HR doesn’t coordinate employee firings well with the IT department. A former editor at a New York-based media company tells AlterNet his phone was wiped clean while he was on vacation. At first he thought he had damaged the phone and sent it in for repairs. The day he returned from vacation two weeks later, he was marched into HR and fired.

Later that day, he noticed the date on one of his termination documents was the same day his phone quit on him (after all they couldn’t fire him when he was on paid vacation and not at the office). When the employee got his phone back from the cellular company, they told him that there was no physical damage to it, they couldn’t recover any data, and needed to perform a hard reset to get rid of the device management software installed by his employer so the phone would work correctly.

“I’m rather glad I was ignorant about this, or it would have really spoiled my vacation,” says the former employee. “But I couldn’t use the phone for navigation, make reservations, or to take pictures, so it was rather annoying.”

Worse yet, corporations can confiscate and have personal phones searched if they part ways with employees. If a company feels that it has questions that may lead to litigation against a former employee, it will likely require the ex-employee to surrender any electronic devices with management software installed on them.

Employers can also track an employee’s whereabouts through the GPS system on their personal devices. This information can be used by HR to determine how long lunch breaks are, how long an employee spends in his office, and even how many trips to the bathroom he makes. Worse yet, let’s say an employee calls in sick, but really just needs to play hookie, or a mental health day. The employer can see if the employee was really home, or if she went to the spa, mall or golf course instead.

And what about the apps you install on your phone? User agreements often give the employer the right to know what software is installed. While companies claim this is done for security reasons, they can glean information about the employee. This can be especially worrisome if the employee uses a specialized app to manage a health condition they don’t want their employer to know about.

There are some things employers can’t do after they hijack your phone with device management software. They can’t see personal email, SMS messages, photos, videos, voicemail and Web activity, or at least IT publications claim.




This article originally appeared on AlterNet.