Big Brother in the Workplace

One of my ultra-conservative friends was all aghast over the fact that his son and his wife were discussing a particular purchase in the privacy of their bedroom where there was a voice activated virtual assistant in the room. Soon they began seeing popups for that particular item on their P.C. They then surmised that a voice activated virtual assistant must be some type of government spy device set up only to get their private information. Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore. With the dawn of new technology comes an awareness that perhaps marketing tools might be part of our electronic devices. If I do an internet search for some particular item, it should come as no surprise to me that I will be getting advertising popups for that item. It’s a good idea to clear the cache, cookies and history from your computers, folks.

How far should this go in the workplace, though? Should it be okay for an employer to read what the employees post in a chat screen or in emails to others? The answer is yes. Not only is it legally okay for an employer to read what is posted in its workplace chat forums, but it is also okay for an employer to obtain information from any device owned and provided by the employer. People don’t seem to understand this. I have cautioned employees for twenty years to please realize that employers can and will have access to what goes across their servers at any given time. Those servers are maintained by employers not as a spy device, but mostly as a way of troubleshooting what system problem might arise. Most employers don’t have time to go into chat groups and read emails just because they have a nose problem. However, it does happen and it can cause a lot of chaos.

Yesterday someone made a mistake and posted a sign-on password (it was not mine, mind you, and I did not post it) on my personal chat page in our group chat site, and it appeared right beside my name as though I posted it. Obviously someone was accessing the site and forgot where they were and they posted their login ID under my screen name, and I’m sure it was unintentional. But it brings to mind the fact that big brother is alive and well in the workplace, and just happened to make the not-so-bright error and got caught doing it. I laughed it off but it did kind of irk me a bit. If you are gonna spy on our work chat groups, can’t you be a little more careful about it? Everyone just thought I made a stupid mistake and posted my own sign-on ID in error. It’s okay and I’ll let them think that I did it. About a month ago, a coworker told me that she was sure that nobody else reads our private chats. I smiled to myself and wondered how, in the year 2019, people can be so unknowing about how things operate in the workplace.

Somebody else with a pretty common login ID is reading our stuff, and it’s okay. My supervisor is getting right on that. I’m just laughing because they will know who has that login and who posted it on an open forum like that. They are so busted. You are welcome to my postings, whomever you are. I know better than to get really personal on a workplace computer. The lady who thinks workplace computer chats are private? She thinks differently now, and she is, like my ultra-conservative friends with a voice activated virtual assistant, just totally shocked! And I’ll bet that heads are just spinning when they read her posts.

I had a terrific supervisor who gave me probably the best advice ever about typing anything in the workplace: “You can type anything you want — just don’t press send.” Amen to that.