The Fine Line Between Electronic Surveillance and Employee Privacy

Timothy Dimoff - Electronic Surveillance at Work

With the advent of social media and new digital surveillance methods, it’s a brand-new world in terms of what you can and cannot do to monitor or investigate an employee. Before your employee privacy policy is forever compromised and your company culture is permanently damaged, it is up to you as an employer to weigh the pros and cons of employee electronic surveillance in the workplace.

Productivity vs. Privacy

The average America spends 2.5 hours per day on their mobile device(s). We take our smartphones to work, on vacation — basically, anywhere and everywhere with us. Staying connected is no longer a “nice to have”, but a “have to have” mindset. Take a moment and think back to the last time you left the house without your phone – it’s not a good feeling, am I right?

However, our obsession with “staying connected” whether for personal or professional reasons has often compromised productivity in the workplace. This, among other reasons, has sparked the need to monitor employee activity.

Today there are multiple electronic ways an organization can “keep an eye or ear” on their staff to address declines in productivity. These include:

  • CCTV
  • Legal wiretapping
  • Cameras
  • Digital video equipment

But as technology evolves so does electronic surveillance solutions with more invasive ways using  emerging technologies like:

  • Access control embedded microchips
  • Heat sensors under workstations
  • Advanced listening devices used on the sales floor
  • GPS fleet tracking devices
  • Monitoring software on company issued computers

The downside to these invasive monitoring solutions can lead to a “big brother is watching” work environment.

Where should employers draw the line?

Pros and Cons of Electronic Surveillance

As with most controversial workplace issues, before implementing a potentially privacy-compromising electronic surveillance solution, it is essential to consider the pros and cons.


  • Prevent internal theft
  • Monitor internet usage for appropriate work protocols
  • Measure employee productivity
  • Uncover inappropriate location issues
  • Capture instances of workplace harassment, bullying, violence, etc.
  • Produce email and web records to defend against lawsuits


  • Affects relationship between employer and employee
  • Creates an atmosphere of suspicion (a positive work culture should foster trust, not omit trust)
  • Compromises employee privacy
  • Impedes productivity

It is important to note; state privacy laws should be referenced before any employee monitoring programs are put in place.

Overall, any electronic surveillance monitoring employees must be done within reason (i.e. common areas only, never in bathrooms). However, from the employee’s perspective, privacy should not be expected when on company grounds or using company-owned equipment, computers, or vehicles.

There is a fine line between electronic surveillance and employee privacy rights. The important thing is to implement with care.

Timothy Dimoff Can Help You Navigate the Issue of Electronic Surveillance

Do you know if your company’s HR policies are up to date in terms of employee privacy rights? Tim’s presentation Employee Privacy Issues and E-Surveillance Practices can help your organization navigate the best way to monitor employees in a digital world. Contact Tim to schedule your presentation today.

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