The Boss Has New Tech to Spy on You

When your boss calls and asks where you are, he or she may already know the answer.
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Think no one knows what you do at work? Think again. New technology makes it easy for your boss to track your every move, and more employers install surveillance equipment every year.

According to the National Workrights Institute, 67 percent of employers electronically monitored their employees in 1999. By 2001, that number jumped to 78 percent. And by 2003, a full 92 percent of employers admitted to conducting some sort of electronic monitoring.

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What are they watching? A 2005 American Management Association survey found that 76 percent of employers monitor which Web sites their employees visit. Over half (55 percent) store and review e-mail messages, and half check employees' computer files. And about one-third of employers track content, keystrokes, and time spent at the computer.

While tracking computer use is the most prevalent type of surveillance, a growing number of companies also monitor their employees away from their PCs. Again according to the AMA, 51 percent of companies had some sort of video surveillance installed in 2005—up from 33 percent in 2001. And 10 percent of employers install cameras specifically to track job performance.

Today's surveillance systems are both more sophisticated and less expensive, making it easier for bosses to see what you do on the clock. And some don't stop there—your boss may also be able to track what you do on your personal time.

Video Goes Digital

When you think of video surveillance, do you imagine a dark room full of uniformed security personnel monitoring a wall of full of closed-circuit TV (CCTV) screens—a stack of VCRs blinking nearby? Once the norm, those setups are quickly disappearing. In their place are new IP cameras, digital video recorders (DVRs), and network video recorders (NVRs).

Unlike CCTV, IP systems take digital pictures and connect to the computer network. This offers a host of benefits including improved picture quality, off-site monitoring, and lower power requirements. Keith Drummond, CEO of surveillance vendor LenSec observes, "The trend among buyers has been to move away from analog CCTV systems to IP-based systems. The reason is that [buyers] are now requiring increased features and functionality, such as Power over Ethernet, wireless, mega pixel, audio, motion detection, and enterprise-wide management in their video surveillance system."

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