(KTLA) — Did you work remotely during the pandemic? Are you still? If so, your employer may have a very good idea of how productive you are. It’s called “bossware”—a sneaky type of surveillance technology that lets employers 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,'” says Alex Alben, a professor of internet law at the University of California, Los Angeles. ‘Of course, they’re also signing away all of their privacy rights.”
Alben 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 lets the company 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.
NEWS10’s sister station in Los Angeles checked out one popular bossware app, Clever Control. Along with more routine surveillance, such as how often you’re at the keyboard, it lets your employer quietly turn on your camera and microphone, and even record your activities.
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. “That’s just not a good way to set up a work environment.”
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. NEWS10’s parent company, Nexstar, told KTLA that it does not use bossware.