Sunday, September 24, 2006
The Latest On Corporate Spying
Hewlett-Packard's scandalous efforts to spy on its own executives raise more general questions about the ethics of employee surveillance. At the link below, the Christian Science Monitor reveals that corporations routinely engage private investigators to clandestinely monitor - and sometimes even to deliberately entrap - their employees. In HP's case, for instance, investigators gained illegal access to personal phone records and orchestrated an e-mail "sting" operation in which a hidden code embedded in an e-mail message allowed it to be traced to all the employees to whom it was forwarded.
With the increasing sophistication of surveillance technology, it is inevitable that employee spying will itself increase, and the law has not caught up with all the possible ramifications of this enterprise. As one expert says, "The bar of ethics is higher than the bar of the law" - and few corporations will restrain themselves from potentially unethical activity while it is still legal.
While corporations will engage private investigators only for critical measures like guarding trade secrets, they routinely use computer software and video cameras to observe and record a wide range of employee behavior.
Here are some stats on the prevalence and results of corporate snooping, based on a survey of 526 companies:
1) 76 percent monitor their employees' website connections.
2) 26 percent have fired employees for abusing their Internet privileges.
3) 6 percent have fired employees for abusing their phone privileges.
"The changing rules of corporate spy games" from the Christian Science Monitor