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Fourteen million office workers in the US have their online activities under constant surveillance, according to the Denver-based Privacy Foundation.

Worldwide, it reckons the number of employees under such surveillance totals around 27 million people.

According to the foundation's Workplace Surveillance Project the low cost of snooping technology is the main reason why employers used such big brother-style tactics in the workplace.

That's despite many companies insisting that they monitored their workers' activities as a means to maintain productivity or prevent online shenanigans such as online harassment.

But the report warns employees to be on their guard, since many might not be fully aware that they're being snooped on.

"Notice alone might not go far enough," said Andrew Schulman, chief researcher for the Privacy Foundation's Workplace Surveillance Project and author of the new study.

"Companies and government agencies are basing firing and suspension decisions on the employee-monitoring reports.

"Yet, employees are generally not told beforehand what information will be gathered and how it will be judged.

"Companies can use employee-monitoring logs as a kind of 'wishing well' to justify actions against employees, including dismissals and layoffs," he said.

Online snooping is estimated to be worth $140 million a year, the report said. ®

Related Link

The Extent of Systematic Monitoring of Employee E-mail and Internet Use - The Privacy Foundation

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