Every minute or so, the program would capture a live photo of David and his workmates via their company laptop webcams. The ever-changing headshots were splayed across the wall of a digital conference waiting room that everyone on the team could see. Clicking on a colleague’s face would unilaterally pull them into a video call. If you were lucky enough to catch someone goofing off or picking their nose, you could forward the offending image to a team chat via Sneek’s integration with the messaging platform Slack.
According to the Sneek co-founder Del Currie, the software is meant to replicate the office. “We know lots of people will find it an invasion of privacy, we 100% get that, and it’s not the solution for those folks,” Currie says. “But there’s also lots of teams out there who are good friends and want to stay connected when they’re working together.” For David, though, Sneek was a dealbreaker. He quit after less than three weeks on the job. “I signed up to manage their digital marketing,” he tells me, “not to livestream my living room.”
Little did he realize that his experience was part of a wide-scale boom in worker surveillance- and one that’s poised to become a standard feature of life on the job… One of the major players in the industry, ActivTrak, reports that during March 2020 alone, the firm scaled up from 50 client companies to 800. Over the course of the pandemic, the company has maintained that growth, today boasting 9,000 customers — or, as it claims, more than 250,000 individual users. Time Doctor, Teramind, and Hubstaff — which, together with ActivTrak, make up the bulk of the market — have all seen similar growth from prospective customers.
These software programs give bosses a mix of options for monitoring workers’ online activity and assessing their productivity: from screenshotting employees’ screens to logging their keystrokes and tracking their browsing.
Speaking to the Guardian, Juan Carloz, a digital researcher and privacy advocate with the University of Melbourne, shares a theory about why remote workers aren’t pushing back against surveillance softare.
“Since, rightly or wrongly, [its] being framed as a trade-off for remote work, many are all too content to let it slide.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.