Keylogging: Is Your Boss Spying On You?

Warning: If you work for someone else, your employer may be watching you and what you do on your computer. This may not come as a surprise to you – perhaps you are already aware that many companies monitor their email accounts or track the websites visited from an office computer. But did you know that with a certain technology known as keylogging, they can literally track everything you are doing on their office computer? And it’s completely legal.

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Sometimes called a keylogger, a keystroke logger or system monitor can be installed on both Apple or Android smartphones as well as personal computers, tablets, iPads, and office or publicworkstations. It records a user’s keystrokes, such as when a person texts on his or her smartphone or enters data into his or her computer.

The majority of the present-day keyloggers are considered to be legitimate software or hardware (although rare, they also exist in the form of devices) and are available for purchase.

Although the use of this type of tracking may seem questionable, there are also several different appropriate uses, such as parental control, company security or even law enforcement related.

However, while the software itself may be legal, hackers, spies, and other nefarious users often utilize this popular type of surveillance technology to obtain information about someone’s computer or phone

Although it can be used as a surveillance technique for individuals, is it legal for employers to use on their own employees?

If used by an employer, keylogging can observe and record how your employees are using their workstations and their time during business hours. You can gather user names, passwords, email usage, online shopping habits, websites visited with timestamps, and anything else they may have entered on their keyboard. Keylogging records each and every keystroke on a single computer or device. When related to the company security, most likely they will only be interested in tracking the use of computers for reasons that are non-work-related, or even after work hours.

The big question is whether keylogging software is legal for employers to use to monitor their employees’ computer usage. As far as the United States is concerned, there are no federal laws governing such a situation (this may differ from state to state though). Companies have the right to monitor their workers and their equipment – these terms are usually spelled out in an employee’s agreement or contract that they sign when they first hired by a company. Businesses need to ensure the safety of their intellectual property, customers’ sensitive data, and that their equipment is used within the corporation’s policies. Keylogging is one way to ensure that employees are not abusing the company’s resources by conducting personal business on company time, or deviating from their given tasks. They are usually inexpensive and easy to use, and Managers defend this practice as beneficial for the company since it is supposed to boost productivity. At the same time, more often than not this kind of monitoring happens without the employee knowledge.

Many workers also don’t realize that their employer can legally spy on them while using an office computer and it is completely legal if the employees have been notified to this effect. “If your company provided the computer you’re using, it’s their property,” said New York private investigator Darrin Giglio. “They have the right to look at anything on the device, even if it’s not work-related.” The bottom line is as an employee, be aware of how you use your time and computer at the office…someone may be watching your online surfing habits or reading your personal emails.

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