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What are the Issues Surrounding Employee Privacy?

By Nat Robinson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Employees are often concerned about maintaining personal privacy in what may be a very public workplace. It can be understandable that employers want to guarantee job duties are being performed up to expectations. At the same time, many employees may still feel entitled to some degree of privacy. Some workplace practices, such as computer monitoring, telephone monitoring, and video surveillance, may hinder employee privacy, present some of the most common workplace conflicts.

Technology has made it possible for employers to monitor a great deal of employee activities. The ability to monitor these activities may make workplace privacy seem somewhat limited. One of the most common issues surrounding employee privacy may be computer monitoring. The issue of computer privacy may be a relevant concern due to the extremes an employer may go in order to monitor computer activities.

Some forms of computer monitoring include the capturing of keystrokes and computer files. Additionally, employers may also monitor email messages and Internet usage. Some employers take additional measures to detect how employees spend time on the Internet by tracking websites visited and blocking access to certain domains. Employers may feel such monitoring is necessary to ensure productivity, while employees may view it as violation of their privacy.

Telephone monitoring is another issue of employee privacy. Calls may be recorded for a variety of reasons, including quality control. If a company records telephone calls for any purpose, employees should remember that could also include personal calls. In addition to the recording of telephone calls, voice mail may be monitored. This can be an issue regarding personal privacy if some employees feel it is an invasion to have even personal phone calls and voice mails recorded and stored in the employer's system.

Employers may install surveillance video cameras to maintain safety, prevent theft, and to monitor employee activities. This surveillance may cause employees to feel their privacy is violated, especially if they are being recorded unknowingly. Employees who are subjected to around the clock surveillance may feel like the company is assuming they will break the rules, and can lower morale.

Data privacy violations may be one of the greatest issues in the overall regard to employee privacy. The issue of how and where personal information is used may be a very understandable concern. Securing employee data can be especially important to protect against identity theft. Employees should be informed of what ways any data may be used and to whom and under what circumstances it may be disclosed.

Employees should not make assumptions about employee privacy. All employees should make sure they completely understand any privacy policy established by an employer, and ask questions about any practice they don't understand. Privacy protection may vary by company and by industry, as well as by location.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Gracechow — On Jul 20, 2015

To mention about employees' privacy, I think during the work environment and during work time, it can be narrowed down to a quite minimal level. Because almost all the employers try to monitor their employees' work in 360 degree to make sure the productivity. Some employers monitor employees' desktop to avoid the leakage of company's essential information.

By anon325783 — On Mar 18, 2013

I work from home with a company laptop. The company wants to turn on the laptop camera and record me on video chat and record what is said with vendors from my home.

By anon253322 — On Mar 08, 2012

Can I sue a local police department for several employees possibly hacking my social networking site to take and copy pictures and sending them to my ex husband. All personnel who were involved hold Sergeant positions and higher.

By anon250014 — On Feb 24, 2012

Can an employee be sacked for refusing to post their profile (including picture) to their employers corporate website?

By anon162296 — On Mar 23, 2011

Can an employer ask employees to empty their pockets for management to scrutinize the contents?

By anon143652 — On Jan 17, 2011

video surveillance is OK, but is it OK for them to listen to every word we say? this is a restaurant situation.

By anon112127 — On Sep 19, 2010

what if a company has a camera in a men's or women's restroom where you take showers?

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