Types of Workplace Surveillance

Surveillance technologies allow employers to listen, watch and read workplace communications.
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Practically all workplaces benefit from a certain level of workplace surveillance. Unlike monitoring, which is the automated collection of data, surveillance implies a relationship between an authority and individuals whose behavior it hopes to manage or control.

Telephone Call and Voicemail Recording and Logs

    Companies rely on telephone call and voice mail recordings, which are one-way voice messages stored in a digital form in a computer's memory, to conduct mass surveillance. Companies can monitor business calls, review the stored messages and cross-correlate the information stored by various systems, such as voice mail and e-mail messages. Conversations can be recorded overtly or covertly, and the recording can be started automatically or manually. Mobile phone data that can be recorded includes the time of a call, call duration, call originator and recipient, and the identification of the base station.

E-mail and Internet Usage Recording and Logs

    Barbara Repa states in "Your Rights in the Workplace" that more than half of all employers monitor e-mail messages that are sent and received by employees. E-mail and Internet usage technologies are self-recorded in computer memory. Web-mail accounts, instant messaging and messages sent to or from a terminal can be recorded and monitored by the employer. In addition, the employer can review e-mail and Internet logs for to determine an employer's daily usage.

Software and Hardware Use Logging

    Where workplace policies leave off, software and hardware surveillance technologies may take over. Some companies rely on software and hardware use logging, computer-screen display detection and other technologies to ensure company policies are enforced. For example, software-metering utilities track the applications that users run on computers and confirm a valid license exists for each program. The utilities also prevent people from running inappropriate or unlicensed software. Other software and hardware, such as keystroke logging, tracks the entries made by an employee using a keyboard and audit logging records a user's changes to existing content.

Visual and Audio Monitoring

    Motivated by unease regarding potential liability for sexual harassment, loss of trade secrets and quality control issues, companies now employ visual monitoring, such as CCTV, and audio monitoring, such as workspace microphones. For example, banks rely on visual monitoring as a theft-prevention and evidence-collection measure. Other businesses, including parking garages, employ visual monitoring as customer and employee security measures. In turn, audio surveillance equipment records the voices of individuals and sounds in particular areas to secure personnel, visitors, buildings and their contents.

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