Fifth of Brits Suspect They've Been Monitored by Employers

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Nearly one in five (19%) adults polled in a new survey from the UK’s privacy regulator think they’ve been monitored by an employer, with many claiming emails, calls and even webcam footage was spied on.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) surveyed 1012 UK adults aged 18+ between August 1-3 to better understand the nature and extent of workplace monitoring in the country.

Of those who believed a current or former employer had been spying on them in the workplace, 40% claimed they’ve had timekeeping and access monitored, 25% said the same about their calls, emails and messages, and 15% believe they’ve had audio and video footage recorded. A further 10% claimed an employer may have even taken screenshots or webcam footage.

Nearly three-quarters (70%) of respondents said they would find workplace monitoring intrusive and only a fifth (19%) would feel comfortable accepting a new job if they knew that their new employer would be eavesdropping on them. 

Read more on workplace privacy: One in Three Workers Monitored by Their Employers.

ICO deputy commissioner for regulatory policy, Emily Keaney, explained that although workplace monitoring is allowed under existing data protection law it must be “necessary, proportionate and respect the rights and freedoms of workers.”

She warned that the ICO will take action if it believes workers’ privacy is at risk, and urged employers to read new guidance on the subject produced by the regulator.

“Our research shows that monitoring at work is a real cause for concern, particularly with the rise of flexible working – nobody wants to feel like their privacy is at risk, especially in their own home,” Keaney added.

“If not conducted lawfully, monitoring can have a negative impact on an employee’s wellbeing and worsen the power dynamics that already exist in the workplace. We want people to be aware of their rights under data protection law and empower them to both identify and challenge intrusive practices at work.”

Employers are increasingly putting in place monitoring software to detect suspicious user behavior which could indicate an insider threat.

A Proofpoint study in 2022 revealed that incidents caused by malicious and negligent insiders cost organizations an average of over $15m annually to remediate.

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