Can my boss watch what I’m doing on my work computer?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Yes. In fact, if you are working in a network in place your boss may be monitoring what you are doing without you even knowing it. Because your boss’s job is to supervise your activities and monitor use of company assets. Typical computer monitoring includes:

(1) software that lets the boss know what is on your screen currently or stored in your terminal and hard disks

(2) keystroke monitoring – common in word processing and data entry jobs, enabling the boss to determine how many keystrokes have occurred during a specific time period as a productivity measure

(3) time – letting the boss know amount of idle computer time, or time billable to particular customers

(4) computer-linked telephone calls, incoming and outgoing — again for productivity measurement, and work-flow assessment. This latter category is increasing with Internet-based electronic commerce.

Some union contracts and government employees may protect employees from the boss monitoring their computer and related activities. Information about monitoring may be included in company memorandums, employee handbooks, union contracts, covered as a discussion item during work place meetings or by other means of disseminating this information.

If you use company equipment to send or receive e-mail – the company probably claims and has a right to review these e-mail messages. Deleting messages may not protect you from employer ease-dropping or third-party retrieval if a lawsuit comes up, since automatic back-up may occur, capturing offending e-mail missives. Remember, what you flame you may have to explain!

However, if the employer makes any promises about regarding your right to privacy in the workplace — these promises are binding and enforceable against the employer, to the extent they are recorded.

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