‘Tattleware’ software tracks productivity from employees working remote on company devices globally

Software tracks employees working on company devices like phones, tablets, and computers

If you are still able to keep working from home, your company might be using new tools to ensure you are staying productive.

But as that happens, workers are getting creative and coming up with new ways to make it appear they’re busy.

The big question is, do those hacks work, and what can happen if you get caught?

Workers in are now dealing with multiple work scenarios. Half “50%” are back in the office, 28% are working remotely, and 18% are doing a hybrid of both.

It’s encouraging some companies to install so-called “Tattleware” software that tracks employees working on company devices like phones, tablets, and computers.

In some cases, they measure productivity by recording keystrokes or tracking emails.

Others can take random screenshots of what’s on your computer. And some can even take photos of you using the computer’s built-in camera.

Monitoring software is a billion-dollar industry that is expected to double by 2030.

“I think employers feel increasingly out of control of the workforce,” said J.S. Nelson.

Nelson is a law professor at Harvard and Villanova, specializing in workplace surveillance and management.

How worried should employers be?

“Well, you know your company,” said Nelson. “Is this being used in some way to supplement the information that the employer needs somehow? Or really, is this an excuse for poor management?”

Nelson pointed to common tricks popular on social media, like using a mouse jiggler with a rotating base.

Or use a USB dongle and free software to keep the cursor randomly moving across the screen.

Nelson says those products are often marketed as undetectable to IT departments.

“No, that’s not true,” Nelson said.

Nelson says an employee could be fired if they’re caught using some of the sneaky technology.

Another question is whether an employer could penalize employees financially for using such technologies.

“It depends on what kind of contract you’ve signed and what the agreement is with the employer,” Nelson said.

A financial impact could be enforced for using that kind of cheating.

“I haven’t seen that yet in employment contracts, but what I have seen is people disciplined,” Nelson said.

According to a study during the pandemic from Microsoft, workers were actually more productive from home, while 85% of managers thought otherwise.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.