George Orwell might have predicted back in 1948 that Big Brother would be watching over us by 1984 but while he may have got the year wrong, the sentiment appears to have been spot on following research which claims a third (32%) of UK workers are now being monitored through tracking software and remotely controlled webcams.
And, it seems, Covid has ratcheted up the pressure; six months ago just a quarter (24%) of workers were being monitored.
The sharp increase comes amid a huge jump in webcam monitoring, with 13% of homeworkers currently being snooped on by their employer through their work-issued device. The figures have more than doubled in the past six months as just 5% of workers were monitored via video in April 2021.
So says a survey by trade union Prospect, which has 150,000 members who work as scientists, engineers, tech experts and in other specialist roles.
It reveals the vast majority of workers think the use of webcam monitoring by employers should either be banned (52%) or regulated (28%). Just 8% said they feel employers should be able to monitor their webcam’s image at will.
The younger workers are, the more likely it seems they will be monitored. Of those in the 18 to 34 age bracket, 48% are believed to be monitored at home by employers, including 20% being monitored using a camera.
Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said: “We are used to the idea of employers checking up on workers, but when people are working in their own homes this assumes a whole new dimension.
“New technology allows employers to have a constant window into their employees homes, and the use of the technology is largely unregulated by government.
“We think that we need to upgrade the law to protect the privacy of workers and set reasonable limits on the use of this snooping technology, and the public overwhelmingly agree with us. Prospect’s new tech workers sector will be campaigning on this issue and other issues affecting tech workers, and I encourage any workers who are worried about monitoring to join Prospect and support our campaign.”
In August, Information Commissioner’s Office launched a new consultation on workplace and working from home snooping, designed to boost employee privacy, while building trust and enabling companies to optimise their operations.
It first pledged to update the Employment Practices Code back in January, following calls by the Labour Party and trade union bosses for stronger regulation of the technology.
Regulator consults on new rules to stop WFH snooping
WFH still has a long way to go before mass take-up TBH
Back to the office? Forget it – most want flexi return
Watchdog confirms overhaul of work snooping rules
Calls grow for action on working from home snooping
You’re fired! Sorry Lord Sugar, WFH is more productive
New normal? Bah, data sector has been WFH for years
Covid piles pressure on ‘maxed out’ data professionals