[ISN] 45% of big firms monitor workers

From: cult hero (jerichoat_private)
Date: Fri Apr 23 1999 - 18:17:45 PDT

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    45% of big firms monitor workers
    By Tom Diederich
    If you work at a major corporation, there's a 45% chance your employer is
    monitoring your e-mail, voice mail, computer files, phone calls or other
    work-related activities, according to a new report from the American
    Management Association (AMA). 
    Last year, 43% of the firms reported keeping tabs on their employees, up
    from 35% in 1997. 
    In the most recent survey, when additional forms of eavesdropping are
    added to the equation -- including security cameras -- the percentage of
    companies engaged in electronic monitoring and surveillance climbs to 67%
    compared with 63% in 1997, the AMA said. 
    The AMA, a nonprofit management-development organization in New York,
    based the findings on a poll of 1,054 human resources managers conducted
    by mail in January. The association said the sample mirrored its corporate
    membership of 10,000 organizations that together employ one-fourth of the
    U.S. workforce. The survey's margin of error was 3.5%. 
    The financial sector had the most monitoring, with 68% of companies
    involved in some form of snooping, followed by business and professional
    service providers at 51%, and wholesalers and retailers at 47%, the AMA
    Most of the monitoring was performed as spot checks, and 84% of the
    companies that said they kept a close eye on their employees' activities
    let them know they're watching, the association added. 
    But full disclosure isn't enough, according to one critic. Marc Rotenberg,
    executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the
    study's results highlight the need for legislation protecting worker
    "The Electronic Communications Privacy Act does a fairly good job at
    protecting privacy for commercial services. For example, if you sign up
    for America Online, people cannot routinely read your e-mail messages," 
    Rotenberg said. "But when you use an electronic-mail system in the
    workplace, your privacy is not protected by law -- and that's something
    that should change." 
    One problem is that the technology used to track employee behavior is
    improving rapidly, Rotenberg added. "The Congress has, generally speaking,
    taken a go-slow approach to privacy. The problem is that the technology is
    not going slowly," he said. 
    The depth of the monitoring will increase along with the development of
    automated tools like complex software filters designed to search for words
    and send red flags to managers, he said. 
    Many corporations, though, say they must watch employee actions not only
    to protect company secrets, but to make sure workers are following the
    law.  Companies worry they'll be open to lawsuits if workers engage in
    inappropriate behavior on the job. 
    Because the AMA's corporate members are mostly midsize and large
    companies, the group said the data didn't accurately reflect policies and
    practices in the overall U.S. economy, where smaller firms predominate. 
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