Company. With the advent of remote work, employees are increasingly in control

This has become one of the main vigilance points of the CNIL (National Commission on Computing and Liberties): the oversight of work has increased significantly in recent years, marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and the development of remote work.

So much so that it’s the third reason to file a complaint with the CNIL. The French Internet User Privacy Guard dedicates part of its annual activity report, published this Wednesday, May 11, to this.

In 2020 and 2021, consecutive lockdowns and health restrictions have pushed many French people to work remotely. Last year, one in five employees worked remotely every week, according to INSEE. And now that the worst of the crisis is over, remote work tends to become permanent.

Keyloggers and webcam all the time

A phenomenon that prompted employers to introduce special tools to expose shirkers. Some do not hesitate to impose particularly intrusive means of surveillance, such as geolocation and video surveillance of their employees. Thus, in 2021, 83% of complaints received by Cnil regarding employee surveillance were related to video surveillance devices at work.

In the context of telecommuting, Cnil refers in particular to employers who ask their employees to activate their webcam during all working hours to ensure their presence. The authorities also warn against “constant screen sharing” and the use of keyloggers, in other words, software that records all keystrokes. Some companies may also require employees to “click on an app every X minutes or take photos at regular intervals.”

According to the CNIL, all of these practices should be avoided. And they are even alarming: “In a professional context (…) surveillance, the methods of which are increasingly striving to cover also the non-professional, private or even intimate sphere, is no longer a simple check on the completion of tasks, but acts. as a mechanism to control people as individuals,” the agency wrote in April 2021.

Finding the Right Balance

If an employer has “the power to control and supervise the performance of the tasks entrusted to its employee,” “this power cannot be overused,” she explains on her website. Therefore, any surveillance device – both in the office and when working remotely – must be “proportionate” and “not interfere with undue respect for rights and freedoms, especially respect for privacy.”

How to find this “fair balance between privacy at work and legal control over the activities of workers”? Cnil first reminds that employees cannot be under constant surveillance. For an employee working from home, the camera can be triggered by the manager, but only “in special cases” (“HR interviews”, meetings with external clients, presentation of new arrivals, etc.).

Activating the webcam should “be left up to the discretion of the employees, since in most cases participation through a microphone is sufficient,” Cnil clarifies. Ideally, employees should have blur-enabled video conferencing software to prevent them from revealing personal information.

Moreover, if, thanks to the control system, the employer notices a violation on the part of one of his employees, he will not be able to use it. “The courts have repeatedly reminded that evidence obtained using such devices cannot, in principle, justify a sanction,” Cnil notes.