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Employee Productivity Surveillance Technology (EPST): Stronger Regulation and New Legislation

We’ve spoken a lot about how using employee productivity surveillance technology has become more common in the workplace. Employers have implemented various forms of surveillance technology, including keyloggers, keystroke monitors, video cameras, and GPS tracking, to monitor employee performance and productivity.

In fact, the trade union Prospect—which represents 150,000 workers in science, engineering, technology, and other specialist roles—ran a survey in October 2021 which concluded:

  • 32% of home workers were being electronically tracked—up from 24% in April 2021.
  • The proportion of people being surveilled at home by a camera had more than doubled—from 5% to 13%—since April 2021

However, the increasing use of such tools has given rise to concerns about privacy and employee rights. As such, this has led to a call for stronger regulation of employers’ use of such tech and the introduction of new legislation –especially when it comes to transparency and notification around monitoring.

Some key examples of these newly introduced measures include:

Stop Spying Bosses Act

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced the Stop Spying Bosses Act in February 2023. This bill establishes requirements for employers with respect to the collection and disclosure of certain worker data. E.g., employers must disclose to their workers (including job applicants) any workplace surveillance, what data is collected, how the data is used, and how such surveillance affects workers’ performance assessments. “It’s time we gave workers a more level playing field,” said Casey.

California Privacy Rights Act

Interest in regulating employee monitoring notification corresponds with the shift to remote work. One of the most consequential laws for employers is the California Privacy Rights Act. In November 2020, California voters approved Proposition 24, the CPRA, which amended the CCPA and added new additional privacy protections that began on January 1, 2023.

Under this law, employers have to give notice of any monitoring, explain how they are protecting employee data, and give employees the right to delete their data if they don’t want the company to continue to hold it.

While these pieces of legislation are important steps toward protecting employee privacy and rights, there are still concerns about the use of surveillance technology in the workplace. Some critics argue that surveillance technology creates a culture of distrust and can be detrimental to employee morale and productivity. Others argue that it can be used unfairly to target and discriminate against certain employees, such as those who are pregnant, have disabilities, or Muslim employees taking time to pray, for example.

With the ongoing rise in popularity of AI technology in the workplace too, it’s vital to take such tools into account. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has begun looking into AI tools and released a memo warning that “overly intrusive surveillance and management tools can impair the rights of workers to communicate with each other about union activity or unsafe conditions.”

Despite these concerns, the use of surveillance technology in the workplace is likely to continue to grow. Employers are under pressure to maximize productivity and minimize costs, and many believe that surveillance technology can help them achieve these goals. However, it’s important for employers to balance these goals with the rights and privacy of their employees. Furthermore, transparency around productivity monitoring is essential.

In conclusion, new legislation around employee productivity surveillance technology (EPST) seeks to regulate the use of such technology and protect employee privacy and rights. While these pieces of legislation are steps in the right direction, concerns about using surveillance technology in the workplace remain. Employers must strategically maximize productivity and minimize costs while preserving the rights and privacy of their employees.

Keen to hear more on this topic and discover more effective (and ethical) alternatives to EPST? Check out our recent webinar with sustainableIT here!


The FORRESTER WAVE™: End-User Experience Management, Q3 2022

The FORRESTER WAVE™: End-User Experience Management, Q3 2022