Is my employer spying on me?

Is my employer spying on me?

Rhian Greener

5 minutes read time

October 28, 2020

As many of us work from home under some form of COVID-19 restrictions, you may have wondered “Is my employer spying on me?”. 

Huge numbers of employees have been asked to download apps like Zoom and WolMobile. So it begs the question – can employers use this software to spy on us? 

How do I know if my employer is spying on me?

You may have heard rumours of employers using software to keep track of productivity and the use of company equipment. Let’s take a look at some of the common beliefs around employee privacy to see if they’re true. 

Employers have the right to carry out surveillance. True, sort of…

It’s true that some degree of employee surveillance is permitted – but this is usually only in the ways you would expect.

Generally speaking, an employer can monitor your activity at work so long as they have a valid business reason. This reason has to outweigh the employee’s right to privacy. 

For example, an employer wouldn’t be able to place a camera in a locker room, but they could justifiably record a phone conversation between yourself and a customer.

My employer can read my emails. True.  

Yes, an employer can access your business email and monitor the communication you send. However, this doesn’t mean your boss is scanning your emails every week. Or ever, for that matter. 

As you might expect, an employer is likely to access your emails only when they have a valid reason to. For example, when looking for evidence in support of a complaint such as workplace harassment or other gross misconduct. 

After all, business email is for business communications, so keep your private conversations to your personal accounts. 

My employer can track my location at all times with WolMobile. Not true. 

Customers often ask us if their employer can track their location at all times when using WolMobile to stay safe at work. In short, the answer is no. 

WolMobile uses location services for two key features: 

  1. Auto sign in/out – to automatically sign you in when you approach your workplace, and sign you out again as you leave. 
  2. When using the follow me feature – This feature is designed to protect those working remotely and at risk if your work requires it. Imagine a utilities contractor travelling alone between remote wind farms to perform repair work. Their location might be tracked for safety reasons, to ensure help can be provided quickly and easily in the case of an emergency. 

Although the WolMobile app has local access to your device’s location at all times, that information stays on your device. The WolMobile app only sends this information to your employer’s WhosOnLocation account when follow me is enabled (which requires you to be signed in for work), or when you enter or leave a geofence and sign in/out. 

Once you leave for the day, your location isn’t reported on in WhosOnLocation, so your employer has no way to access this information. 

Zoom has lots of privacy and security problems. Not necessarily true.

As organizations closed their offices, downloads of the Zoom app skyrocketed as we kept our team meetings going virtually. Although not considered a method of employer spying, Zoom did come in for some bad press earlier this year, leading many of us to question whether it was putting our privacy at risk. On closer inspection, many of the claims were exaggerated and designed to grab headlines: 

Zoom conversations can be found online. 

This isn’t a zoom issue, but rather a simple fact that a meeting host could record a conversation and make it publicly accessible online. The same could be said of any application.

Hackers will Zoombomb your meeting. 

Zoom has password and security settings available to prevent this from happening. Just don’t turn them off. 

Zoom’s end-to-end encryption doesn’t work.

This headline is more about a discrepancy between the commonly accepted definition of end-to-end encryption and how Zoom was using it. Although certainly misleading, this isn’t a bug. It’s worth noting end-to-end encryption isn’t widely available in the video conferencing market yet. 

So, is my employer spying on me?

Your employer might be carrying out a degree of surveillance, but only for justifiable business reasons. If your employer has reason to investigate your business communications, they are quite within their rights to do so. So remember to keep your personal or private communication to your personal devices and accounts. 

In the case of your employer spying on your whereabouts using WolMobile, rest assured this isn’t the case. If you’re not at work, your employer can’t access your location information. Remember when you are at work, your employer can only track your location around a site if you’re using the follow me feature for your own safety.