A year into a worldwide shift to home-working induced by the pandemic, more employers are turning their mind to optimising data security and productivity as they look to normalise remote working. This is particularly so for employers in regulated sectors with specific requirements regarding data security and consumer data. Various software tools offer employers the opportunity to monitor employees' activity, including using facial recognition technology to detect whether the person at the home desk is actually the employee they expect to be behind the desk. However these tools do not come without challenges under UK and European data protection law, as such tools are often viewed as particularly intrusive in the home working environment. Organisations will need to demonstrate that the tools are necessary and proportionate to achieving their aims to have a legal basis to use these tools. However, the legalities aside, there is often strong public opinion about how far an employer should be able to go with respect to monitoring employees in their home, and such tools are often met with backlash from employees and negative press attention in the UK.
The press article by the Guardian goes to show that, alongside managing legal risk, consultation of employee representatives prior to any implementation of a novel monitoring tool is critical. Particularly where such a tool could impact on privacy in the home. It gives an employer a better vantage point to spot backlash risk and address it, which in turn helps it to better control the public narrative.
Thousands of staff at one of the world’s biggest call centre companies face being monitored by webcams to check whether they are eating, looking at their phones or leaving their desks while working from home, the Guardian has learned.