Bossware: Your employer may be tracking you during remote work

(KTLA) — Did you work remotely during the pandemic? Are you still?

If so, your employer may have a very good idea how productive you are.

It’s called “bossware,” and it’s a sneaky type of surveillance technology that allows employers to keep tabs on workers — often without them knowing.

“The average employee will accept the job and say, ‘OK, I like the benefits, I like the salary, I’m going to sign on the dotted line.’ And of course, they’re also signing away all of their privacy rights,” says Alex Alben, a professor of internet law at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He and other experts note that the use of bossware increased during the pandemic as employers handed out laptops to workers and told them to set up shop at home.

What they may not have disclosed is the presence of bossware, which allows the company to track keystrokes, mouse movements, browsing habits and websites visited.

“Some of the less scrupulous ones might even allow the employer to turn on the camera or the microphone of the device that it’s installed on, potentially without the employees’ awareness,” says John Davisson, senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

KTLA checked out one popular bossware offering called Clever Control. Along with more routine surveillance, such as how often you’re at the keyboard, it allows your employer to quietly turn on your camera and microphone, and even to record your activities.

Here’s the thing: It’s their laptop, not yours. They can do with it as they please.

And apparently, there’s no law requiring businesses to inform workers when bossware is being used.

“It’s very much like having somebody sitting on your shoulder watching everything you do,” says Hayley Tsukayama, senior legislative activist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “And that’s just not a good way to set up a work environment, I would say.”

The California Consumer Privacy Protection Act requires businesses to disclose what information they’re collecting on customers. But employers are exempt from making similar disclosures to workers.

That exemption is scheduled to expire next year – unless corporate lobbyists succeed in maintaining it.

In the meantime, the smart money is on assuming you’re being watched unless you’re told otherwise.

KTLA asked its parent company, Nexstar, if it uses bossware. It said no.

Tags bossware Privacy Surveillance

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