Your boss is watching you

Last week, New Scientist published my investigative article on how several large US companies monitor their employees on corporate computer networks (and off them, too). The biggest payoff in my research was when I got a rep from Wavecrest, a company that sells cheapo network monitoring software, to tell me all about how Procter & Gamble uses its system to surveil what all 100 thousand of its employees are doing on the Web. I kept calling P&G for comment, but got shuffled around for two weeks — and then, literally one day before the article went to press, I got the Panic Call. One of P&G’s reps had finally figured out what I was writing about, and wanted to assure me the story wasn’t true. When I confronted her with the evidence, she got very quiet and said she needed to talk to “someone else.” Later that day, she acknowledged that P&G is a Wavecrest client and that she wouldn’t deny their story, but added P&G had “no comment.” Heh.

I got some interesting information on corporate surveillance at Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, and Yahoo!. In addition, Google’s corporate blogmistress admitted that the company has a special e-mail list where employees send personal blog posts for “vetting.” (Sadly this detail didn’t make the final article.) She also said Google routinely reads the blogs of potential employees before hiring them. Yes, we all know this is true on a common sense level, but it’s another thing to have someone officially admit it.

4 thoughts on “Your boss is watching you

  1. Pingback: » links for 2006-10-04

  2. At least they’re honest. It’s possible my employers listen-in on this comment, but I’m more concerned with being held by the authorities for talking in my mother tongue at airports.

  3. They’re not being honest — most companies don’t tell their employees about surveillance.

    FYI most “authorities” in US airports have no idea what your mother tongue is. I’m willing to bet that most of them think everybody from the Indian subcontinent speaks “Indian”. They’ll just hold you for being brown.

  4. The monitoring of blogs reminds me of USSR. When you travelled alone in Russia in the late eighties, you had people writing in very large books all your moves : the town you came from, where you intended to go, your mean of transportation… It was all handmade and I always wandedered : how can they use it? what can they do with it?

    One could ask almost the same questions about monitoring employee’s blogs : how many people do you need to read all those blogs? for what purpose?

    But, maybe nobody reads them. Just the idea of being (maybe) monitored is enough to prevent you from behaving badly (whatever that means).