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The silent creep of workplace surveillance: why the TUC wants to crack down on employee monitoring

More than half of UK workers fear they are being monitored by their employer and 65 per cent think the practice could spark discrimination and a sense of distrust.

These are the findings of a new survey of 1,099 Brits conducted by the Trades Union Congress, which is calling for new measures to protect employees’ privacy.

The TUC wants companies to limit their use of surveillance to instances where it safeguards workers, and is calling on employers to consult with unions before rolling out new techniques, ensuring workers know how, when and why they are being monitored.

“Employers must not use tech to control and micromanage their staff,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “Monitoring toilet breaks, tracking every movement and snooping on staff outside of working hours creates fear and distrust. And it undermines morale.”

“New technologies should not be used to whittle away our right to privacy, even when we’re at work,” O’Grady  added. “Employers should discuss and agree workplace monitoring policies with their workforces – not impose them upon them.”

Facial recognition software and mood monitoring is considered the least acceptable form of surveillance, with three quarters of workers objecting to its use. Monitoring social media accounts outside of work comes in second, with 69 per cent against the practice. And the recording of a worker’s location on wearable or handheld devices is considered the third least acceptable, with 67 per cent objecting.

Employee monitoring is increasingly being leveraged by security software to mitigate against insider threats and phishing attacks.

“We do agree with the TUC to a certain extent,” said Nico Fischbach, the chief technology officer of the security vendor Forcepoint. “The personal privacy of employees is absolutely critical and transparency when introducing workforce monitoring programmes is a must. Businesses must walk a fine line between protecting against potential threats or breaches and maintaining and respecting the privacy of the individuals.”