Telecommuting: Can Your Employer Spy on You at Home?

Software that allows employers to monitor their employees’ work in front of a screen is already widespread. Telecommuting has developed a “suspicion” against employees and the means of assessing their productivity can go far beyond the scope of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Browsing on websites without obvious professional interest can be controlled very well. Photo Jeremie Fulleringer

Most telecommuters are probably unaware of the possibilities of the tools already widely used in the United States, which can allow their manager to assess their “distraction rate”: connection and connection time, time spent on each task, data browsing, blocking access to socials Networks… this is basic surveillance.

“Discover the Lazy”

Slightly sneakier apps save employee screenshots or GPS data from phones every five minutes. A spyware maker offers to “spot the lazy ones” by tracking keystrokes and mouse clicks. Its software also makes it possible to take photos of employees or record conversations using the computer’s built-in camera and microphone.

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Teleworkers with the Creuse landscape in the background of the webcam

SMEs use these tools without knowing the “boundaries” they must not cross. In its 2021 report, the CNIL (National Commission for Computing and Liberties) notes that “83% of the complaints received in 2021 related to the surveillance of employees concerned video surveillance devices in the workplace”. The commission has announced that monitoring employees and agents working from home is one of its three priority control areas in 2022.

Some rules reminded by the CNIL

1. Can the employer control the activities of employees who work from home?

Yes, if this does not violate the rights and freedoms of workers and certain rules are observed. The employer must therefore justify that the measures taken are strictly proportionate to the objective pursued and do not unduly prejudice respect for workers’ rights and freedoms.
2. Does the employee have to be informed about the means of control used?

The employer has a duty of loyalty to his employees. As such, prior to their implementation, he must inform them of all mechanisms to control their activity. In principle, evidence obtained with such devices cannot be used to justify a sanction.
3. Can the employer constantly monitor its employees?

no For example, an employer cannot ask an employee to participate in a video conference throughout their working hours to ensure their presence behind their screen.
4. Can an employer force an employee to activate their camera during a meeting? Using video conferencing from home shouldn’t result in employees disclosing more personal information than they would in a meeting at their workplace. The CNIL therefore urges employers to favor solutions that “blur” the background. Except in special situations (customer meeting, staff meeting), the activation of the camera must always be left to the discretion of the employee, provided that participation via the microphone is sufficient in most cases. not
(Source: CNIL).

Julien Rapegno

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