When IT Is Asked to Spy

IT managers are being put in the awkward position of monitoring fellow employees.

1 2 3 4 Page 3
Page 3 of 4

In addition to energy and automation systems, ENE offers IT services, including Web site development and e-mail. Thompson says he's seen increased interest in employee monitoring among ENE's customers, which include large institutions such as the Boston public school system and State Street Bank. "More and more frequently, our customers want to know, 'What was that guy doing when [his computer] got that virus?' for example," he says.

One customer put Thompson in an ethical dilemma when it asked ENE to secretly install SpectorSoft Corp.'s surveillance software on its employees' PCs. SpectorSoft records everything: e-mails, IMs, Web site visits and searches, programs run and files transferred. It even logs keystrokes and takes screenshots.

The owner of the company, a landscaping firm, wanted Thompson's staff to lie if employees asked what they were installing on the PCs. (Although most companies spell out monitoring policies in employee manuals, only two states -- Delaware and Connecticut -- actually require that companies notify employees that they're being monitored.)

Thompson refused. "What he asked us to do crossed the line," he says. "I told him, 'We'll install the software, we'll help you use the software, we'll help you monitor your employees. If somebody does something wrong, we'll help you collect the information to fire them. But we're not going to look your employees in the eye and lie about what we're doing.' "

Thompson says the customer was "a bit unhappy" but accepted his position.

The Legal Eagle

"Daryl" -- who requested anonymity -- is an IT manager at a midsize industrial manufacturer in the U.K. He strongly believes that IT has the right, and the duty, to monitor employee activity in order to protect the interests of the company.

He once caught an employee engaged in criminal activity involving intellectual property that could have resulted in a big financial loss for the company.

He went to the CEO, and the employee was dismissed. The employer didn't press charges, however, because "it would've been embarrassing for the company," Daryl says.

Daryl's complaint isn't that he has to police employees, but that he's not allowed to do it properly.

1 2 3 4 Page 3
Page 3 of 4
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon