How To Use Computer Spy Software Responsibly

Computer Spy, Shadowy Figure with digital background

Would you like to use computer spy software to monitor employees in your workplace? Remote spy softwares provide the means to track computer activity of employees that are in-house as well as those that are working from home, but this technology must be used responsibly to ensure that monitoring is performed ethically and legally.

What Is Computer Spy Software?

Computer spy software can be split into two distinct categories: Computer programs that allow designated administrators to track computer activity on their managed devices, and malicious spyware programs that are used to unknowingly exfiltrate data on infected systems. 

Non-malicious computer spying software is used by employers to monitor employees that are using company-owned devices. Stealth monitoring (incognito monitoring) is used as a proactive protection measure for alerting managers and security personnel to unlawful or dangerous behaviors of their employees without making the computer spying software visible to them. 

Spy software for PCs can be deployed remotely via company servers to the devices that will be monitored, allowing for the software to be distributed to remote workers. With stealth monitoring features enabled on the program, users will not be aware that computer monitoring is taking place. 

The preference for stealth monitoring vs transparent monitoring in a given workplace is dependent on the culture of the company, applicable legislation, and their employee computer monitoring goals.

Examples of Stealth Monitoring Software

  • Internet Usage Monitors: Software for monitoring internet activities that tracks websites visited, bandwidth consumption, search keywords, and the time spent on the web. These softwares are often used to identify personal internet browsing during work hours.
  • Employee Monitoring Software: Tools used by managers to increase productivity, detect insider threats, collect evidence of misconduct, and protect computers against misuse. These features often come with features for alerting designated personnel to suspicious or undesirable activity.
  • Endpoint Security Software: These types of software track how users interact with the devices and the files they have access to. Endpoint monitoring tools are used by businesses as a proactive method of endpoint protection to ensure that data accessed by devices is kept safe.
  • Spyware: Malicious programs used to secretly record devices and steal data. These programs come with features that are used for espionage and data theft, such as keyloggers to steal passwords and email tracking to intercept communications.

Is Computer Spy Software Legal?

In the US and Canada, employee monitoring is generally perfectly legal as a method of ensuring that company assets are protected and used responsibly. Depending on legislation related to your jurisdiction and industry there may be additional legal requirements surrounding topics such as informed consent from employees, establishing a legitimate business need, and protecting employee monitoring data.

Guidelines for Ethical and Legal Employee Monitoring

  1. Informed Consent: Even if the computer spy programs themselves will be running in stealth mode, the best practice is to forewarn monitored users that monitoring measures are taking place. To demonstrate that informed consent has been achieved, written acknowledgments of acceptance for monitoring policies should be maintained.
  2. Legitimate Need: When implementing spy software for your PCs, you must ensure that the tracking that is taking place has a legitimate business use. Excessive monitoring without a valid basis may be considered a violation of privacy-related legislation. 
  3. Proportionality: After establishing your legitimate business needs for monitoring employees, you should review the benefits of the solution against the privacy impact on your employees. If less invasive monitoring measures can achieve the same results, it is best to adjust your monitoring method accordingly.
  4. Appropriate Use: Just as you need a legitimate need to monitor employees, you must also ensure that the data captured with informed consent is used responsibly and for the purpose that the consent was provided for. If you intend to use a computer spy program to ensure that technology and related assets are used appropriately, that same data should not also be used in performance appraisals. 
  5. Data Security: Employee monitoring data should be treated as highly sensitive and secured appropriately. Depending on the features of the spy software there may be screenshots, sensitive search queries, or browsing history that is sensitive in nature. 
  6. Personal Devices: If your workplace allows employees to use personal devices for work – known as “Bring Your Own Devices” (BYOD) – these devices should not be monitored as there is a high risk to the privacy of the employee.
  7. Remote Spying Software: If the spy monitoring software is intended for remote workforce management, the tracked devices must be company-owned. As an alternative, remote monitoring software that tracks how the users interact with the company network through remote access methods such as a VPN could be used.

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Employee Monitoring: Best Practices for Balancing Productivity, Security, and Privacy

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Remote computer spy software can be an effective tool for time tracking, detecting unsafe internet browsing, and ensuring that employees are using their devices appropriately. So long as the monitoring takes place with privacy and transparency at the forefront, your in-house and remote workers can be monitored as part of your productivity and data security strategy.

Dale Strickland
Dale Strickland
Dale Strickland is a Marketing Coordinator for CurrentWare, a global provider of endpoint security and employee monitoring software. Dale’s diverse multimedia background allows him the opportunity to produce a variety of content for CurrentWare including blogs, infographics, videos, eBooks, and social media shareables.