(MENAFN – Swissinfo)
© Thomas Kern / swissinfo.ch
The global demand for employee surveillance technology has increased during the pandemic. This is cause for concern in Switzerland, not least because the country’s legal system is not set up to deal with it.
This content is published on 26 January 2021 – 12:00 26 January 2021 – 12:00 Sara Ibrahim
Writing about the impact of new technologies on society: are we aware of the ongoing revolution and its consequences? Hobbies: thinking freely. Habit: asking too many questions.
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Working from home will be one of the long-lasting global side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has been made possible by structural changes in the way we work due to the ongoing digitalisation of the workplace.
The encounter between digital transformation and the world of work has all the ingredients to make a story that ends well. It is not only worker productivity and satisfaction that you want to achieve, but also climate. Teleworking for half a week can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as about 54 million tonnes annually external links .
How extensive is teleworking?
According to a global survey conducted by consulting firm GartnerExternal Links , as of March 2020, as many as 88% of companies have encouraged or required teleworking to respond to health emergencies while ensuring staff uptime and continuity of services.
In Switzerland, a survey by Deloitte Suisse External links shows that, in the first few months of 2020, about half of the population worked from home and were no less productive. In the third quarter, this figure fell a little external link , however, the trend remains important and is expected to continue in 2021. Some external link estimates predicts that 25-30% of employees worldwide will continue to work from home several days of the week in the new year.
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But that progress comes at the expense of worker privacy. A study from TOP10VPN External link , which analyzes and reviews VPN services around the world, found that global demand for surveillance software has increased 51% since the start of the health crisis. In April alone, this figure was 87%, well above pre-pandemic levels.
Workplace supervision has also increased in Switzerland. Despite a lack of precise statistics on the activity of private companies, the Federal Commissioner for Protection of Data and Information (FDPIC) has confirmed that the phenomenon is growing in scale and is being observed. “During the pandemic, there has been an increasing number of reports of privacy violations in the workplace. We are aware of the matter and have opened an investigation into one company. Unfortunately, we cannot reveal any further details,” Hugo Wyler, Head of Communications at FDPIC, told SWI swissinfo. .ch.
SurveyExternal link of 213 senior Swiss HR managers conducted between June and September 2020 by the Research Institute for Work and Employment at the University of St Gallen found that investing in the People Analytics solution system is a conscious investment, regardless of the pandemic. The survey also highlighted that those who invested in this technology before the crisis will continue to do so afterward, and investment in performance analytics solutions has increased by 10% since 2018.
“Without a clear legal framework, nothing is illegal, and society will continue to adapt to technology, and not the other way around. ‘
Jean-Henry Morin, University of Geneva
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Surveillance software is capable of performing a variety of operations to monitor any activity on an employee’s computer, from recording typed words to screen monitoring, internet searches and e-mail. Some of the software even includes camera surveillance, geolocation, audio recording, and cell phone access. The most popular programs, including Hubstaff, Time Doctor and FlexiSPY, offer most of this functionality.
© Gaetan Bally / Keystone
Microsoft recently launched a software called Productivity Score, which in its first version was able to track the activity of every employee. The program raised concerns about privacy breaches, forced Microsoft to remedy the situation and withdrew some more privacy-intrusive features that allow employers to access employee data and monitor individual use of Microsoft 365 services and applications. Microsoft is the world’s largest software provider by revenue and its desktop operating systems have more than 75% share of the global market, mostly in business settings.
In a note published on the internet External link , Jared Spataro, vice president of Microsoft 365, said that the company, in addition to removing usernames from products, is also “changing the user interface to make it clear that the Productivity Score measures technology adoption across the company, not individual user behavior”. Would Microsoft step in on such a significant issue – such as protecting user privacy – even if the solution was not a fuss? Microsoft Switzerland did not respond to inquiries from SWI swissinfo.ch.
Nonetheless, it is important to distinguish between monitoring individual behavior, which is prohibited by Swiss data protection law, and gathering information to verify employee contract duties.
“The employer has no right to monitor the employee during, for example, his lunch break, but he can investigate what he is doing during working hours, without violating individual behavioral surveillance”, explains Wyler. Companies are still required to inform employees in a transparent manner about the data analyzed.