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(en) France, UCL AL #313 - Digital, Espionnite: The teleworking guards (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Mon, 22 Feb 2021 08:14:18 +0200

Spy webcams, time control, keystrokes ... With the massive spread of teleworking in 2020, employers have sought solutions for generalized surveillance of employees with the help of digital companies. ---- Surveillance at work is nothing new. The working class has long been subjected to wardens, foremen and other controllers and supervisors. ---- Far from the image of Épinal of a desire for better management and optimization of productivity, this generalized surveillance only aims to put pressure on workers by scrutinizing all of their facts. and gestures and looking for the slightest loophole to threaten them. You have to keep it up if you don't want to lose your job. But the generalization of teleworking undermines the classic supervisory capacity of bosses.

To overcome these difficulties, digital companies, never left behind in putting their creativity at the service of the dominant, have developed tools. This is how we have seen the birth in recent years of software for counting time, random screenshots, recording of keystrokes on the keyboard or even control of employee webcams. Some tools even go so far as to rummage through couriers ...

Big boss is watching you
And if you wanted to fill in the digs by investing in digital companies, you had to have a hollow nose in 2019, as spyware and control software sales jumped 87% in April 2020, and again by 71% in May. , compared to the average monthly demand before the onset of the coronavirus. And still 51% from June to September[1].

Time Doctor, the flagship monitoring software, jumped 202% last April. This self-proclaimed best software on the market promises to "follow live tasks on which teams are working" , in addition to providing real-time information on the sites visited and the connection and disconnection times of teleworkers. Beyond these specific programs, tools used on a daily basis by millions of employees also make it possible to set up monitoring: professional messaging, intranet, collaborative tools (Slack, Teams, etc.), videoconferencing software ( Zoom, Skype, etc.) and many more.

Practices on the edge of legality
This monitoring is carried out within a legal framework set up by the government and its "social partners". In order to be able to monitor employees, companies must inform them. The tools cannot be installed at the expense of employees and must not infringe on fundamental freedoms, especially with regard to their privacy. All this "must be justified by the nature of the task to be accomplished and proportionate to the goal sought"[2]. For companies that have them, the CSEs must be "consulted". For others, "discussions" must take place. In all cases, a charter must be drawn up by the employers.

If employees use their own computer equipment, bosses cannot impose surveillance software or sanction those who oppose it. But using your personal equipment to protect yourself from the coping of your boss is obviously not a solution at a time when many are claiming decent equipment to carry out their teleworking. For its part, the CNIL proposes to adapt the "supervision methods" instead of setting up monitoring tools. But as usual, the opinion of the CNIL, everyone really does not give a damn... Overall, surveillance at work is framed, on paper.

Yet we can ask ourselves: who, in fact, watches over those who watch us? When we see the increasingly tense situation at the Labor Inspectorate, we can only doubt that the State is putting in place the means to control this surveillance.

For employers, the challenges of teleworking do not arise in terms of psychosocial risks, arduousness, improvement of working conditions, but rather of monitoring and profitability. In companies, in services, at home, employees are pressured and exploited. For many, teleworking has already constituted an intrusion of the professional sphere into the personal sphere. If we add to this permanent surveillance, employees are no longer even free at home. The employer's utopia according to which a worker is always able to produce, whether in companies, services, or telework is therefore on the verge of being realized.

The (tele) work in question
This would be forgetting that the social movement has long since engaged in the struggle to rebalance the balance of power. In a fierce struggle, the workers obtained the reduction of working hours, the dismissal of the most violent supervisors and wardens, and in many companies the right to "wig"[3]continues to endure. It is clear that the current balance of power is far removed from these workers' victories. The techniques of monitoring and managing "human resources" are increasingly pernicious. But we must not let ourselves be defeated.

Put your eyes out of surveillance
Despite the isolation of employees, there are ways to fight against this surveillance. First, by ensuring that the trade unions seize on this problem, so that a collective struggle can take place. Then there are techniques to fool and bypass the surveillance of his bosses[4]. However, this remains individual initiatives which can have serious consequences for employees. It is becoming urgent to tackle this problem head-on, as teleworking is tending to impose itself in many sectors.

Jon (UCL Angers)


[1]Study carried out by the independent site Top10Vpn.

[2]National Interprofessional Agreement (ANI) of 26 November 2020 "for a successful implementation of teleworking: a useful tool for companies" , signed by the so-called representative trade unions CFDT, FO, CFE-CGC and CFTC but denounced by the CGT.

[3]Use of materials and tools by a worker, within the company, during working time, with the aim of manufacturing or transforming an object outside of regulatory production, for oneself.

[4]These solutions range from the installation of a virtual machine on his computer, to the suspension of his mouse to a fan and software to feign activity.

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