Can Employers Monitor My Internet Usage?

Can Employers Monitor My Internet Usage?

Many employees have no idea that they are being spied on virtually by their employers. Today, many employers monitor their employees' usage of company phones, company e-mail accounts and internet usage on company computers. According to the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, certain types of software allow employers to see what is on their employees' computer screens as well as the files are being stored on their hard disks. With these abilities, employers can find out how much time employees spend surfing the web as well as what types of websites employees visit. In a 2012 column featured in USA Today, an expert in the electronics, computers and internet industry described how employers that provide their workers with smartphones paid by the company can use "keylogger apps" that record everything that is done on the phone—including monitoring internet usage.

As an employee, you might be wondering whether your company has a legal right to monitor you in this way. The reality is that employers have certain rights to monitor property that they technically own—including company computers, laptops and smartphones. Although the company has the right to monitor its property, employees maintain some privacy rights as well. For example, under Illinois law, it is unlawful for employers to request or require employees (current or prospective) to provide passwords for their social networking accounts. Internet monitoring can be considered extensive when it appears to go beyond reasonable business-related purposes.

Certain groups of employees—such as union and some public sector workers—may have even greater levels of protection from internet and computer monitoring practices. Workers that qualify for these higher levels of protection can sometimes argue that the monitoring of their internet usage is a violation of their rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

It can be difficult to recognize when your rights as a worker have been violated and whether you have any recourse. Our Chicago employment lawyers at the Law Offices of Fern Trevino can help you evaluate your case and whether such a violation occurred in your particular situation. Contact our office today!