The big problem in that, in Gartner's estimation, is not the violation of trust with employees, invasion of privacy or potential violation of laws protecting the privacy of individuals.
No, the problems are that:
- "Automated, covert monitoring of computer use by staff" can turn up lots of erroneous or irrelevant information, making it harder for security staffers to identify real problems; and
- That irrelevant information can be "exposed accidentally or become the target of voyeuristic behavior by security staffs" exposing the company to lawsuits.
That's a pretty weak downside for a practice that is so creepy and so tempting to managers whose need for control outweighs their sense of right and wrong.
The Gartner report, btw, was not designed to raise a warning flag over a distasteful practice or warn employees not to snoop.
Its title is "Conduct Digital Surveillance Ethically and Legally: 2012 Update"(registration required).
It's a guide to how to snoop without hitting any major landmines as you do it.
Sounds like a guide to launching a game of Snoop vs. Counter-Snoop as employers use ever-more-sophisticated surveillance and employees struggle to preserve any shred of privacy by using anything they can to hide what they're doing on line, whether it's inappropriate or not.
US workers become the oppressed masses of totalitarian overlords (at work)
But that's a good thing, isn't it?
During the past decade the American workplace has been ravaged by a lingering recession, elimination of permanent employment in favor of perma-temp work and general deterioration of the relationship between workers and employers.
In an atmosphere that poisoned and difficult the one thing that would make everything better would be an arms race between employers buying ever-more-efficient surveillance tools and employees using VPNs, encryption, proxy servers in the same way and for the same reason that third-world dissidents use them – to escape surveillance and punishment for saying what they think, reading what they want and associating (virtually) with anyone they choose.
It's just too bad those things won't be tolerated in the United States any more.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.