17 March XXXX
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A Threat to Employee Privacy in the Wired Workplace
As the Internet has become an integral tool of businesses,
company policies on Internet usage have become as common as
policies regarding vacation days or sexual harassment. A 2005 study by the American Management Association and ePolicy
Institute found that 76% of companies monitor employees’ use
of the Web, and the number of companies that block employees’ access to certain Web sites has increased 27% since 2001 (1). Unlike other company rules, however, Internet usage policies often include language authorizing companies to secretly monitor
their employees, a practice that raises questions about rights in the workplace. Although companies often have legitimate
concerns that lead them to monitor employees’ Internet usage— from expensive security breaches to reduced productivity—the benefits of electronic surveillance are outweighed by its costs to employees’ privacy and autonomy.
While surveillance of employees is not a new phenomenon,
electronic surveillance allows employers to monitor workers
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with unprecedented efficiency. In his book The Naked Employee, Frederick Lane describes offline ways in which employers have been permitted to intrude on employees’ privacy for decades, such as drug testing, background checks, psychological exams, 1"
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Source: Hacker/Sommers (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007). This sample follows the style guidelines in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. (2009). 5/11_A
lie detector tests, and in-store video surveillance. The difference, Lane argues, between these old methods of data gathering and electronic surveillance involves quantity:
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Technology makes it possible for employers to gather
enormous amounts of data about employees, often
far beyond what is necessary to satisfy safety or
productivity concerns. And the trends that drive
technology—faster, smaller, cheaper—make it possible
for larger and larger numbers of employers to gather
ever-greater amounts of personal data. (3-4)
Lane points out that employers can collect data whenever
employees use their computers—for example, when they send
e-mail, surf the Web, or even arrive at or depart from their workstations.
Another key difference between traditional surveillance and
electronic surveillance is that employers can monitor workers’ computer use secretly. One popular monitoring method is
keystroke logging, which is done by means of an undetectable program on employees’ computers. The Web site of a vendor for Spector Pro, a popular keystroke logging program, explains that the software can be installed to operate in “Stealth” mode so that it “does not show up as an icon, does not appear in the Windows system tray, . . . [and] cannot be uninstalled without the Spector Pro password which YOU specify” (“Automatically”). As Lane explains, these programs record every key entered into the computer in hidden directories that can later be accessed or uploaded by supervisors; the programs can even scan for keywords tailored to individual companies (128-29).
Source: Hacker/Sommers (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 2007).
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Adams, Scott. Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel. New York: Harper, 2002. Print.
American Management Association and ePolicy Institute. “2005 ½"
Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance Survey.” American
Management Association. Amer. Management Assn., 2005.
Web. 15 Feb. 2009.
“Automatically Record Everything They Do Online! Spector Pro 5.0
FAQ’s.” Netbus.org. Netbus.Org, n.d. Web. 17...