Dilemmas of Ethics: Keylogger Software

How Ethical Is It To Use Keylogger Software At Work?

Look at the calendar. What date is it today? No, there’s no need to answer the question. The pint was something different – you didn’t check an actual calendar made of ink and paper. You’ve glanced at a screen with pixels that add up into shapes.

We really live in the world of technology when even the simplest tasks are redirected to computers by default. If we dedicated something as simple as track of time to machines – should we really be worried about harder tasks. Or people in charge of them?

Computerized workplaces

Let’s face it. We work behind the screens. A computer is a remarkable source of digital data. It can do everything. And that’s the problem. Why use a machine for boring charts or excel sheets if it can be used for internet browsing and social media?

But in the end of the day employees are to work, not play. You are paying them money for results, not pleasant company, correct? So how does one monitor performance of a person behind the computer? IS it legal? Is it ethical? Let’s answer all these questions one at a time.

Is it legal?

Keyloggers are pieces of software that record actions people take on their personal computers. Key strokes, visited websites, screen snapshots, read and sent emails, and even passwords are included into lists of data  keyloggers record.

If we are talking about a personal device of a person he or she uses at home, use of such software would be considered as espionage as well as theft of personal data. Usage of a keylogger by an employer, on the other hand, is not covered by any federal statutory framework. ECPA, FWA and SCA while researching keylogger activity never extended their regulations to protect the privacy of a workplace.

There is plethora of other legal documents exists and evaluates the usage of keyloggers in one way or the other. But, in the end of the day, all of them are narrowed down to the following bullets:

  • If the PC in the workplace is the employer’s property keyloggers can be installed without any concern of trespass.
  • A networked keylogger may violate several state or federal privacy laws unless employees are officially warned by the employer about the fact that their stations are monitored.
  • An employer has no legal right to grant anyone with access to personal passwords of an employee.

All in all, both parties are safe when work is the only thing that’s done on a corporate PC.

Is it ethical?

Is it ethical to check the diploma of a surgeon that’s about to perform a surgery on your spouse? Is it ethical to trust a mechanic with certificates more than a random guy from across the street? Is it ethical to choose a president from only those people who have real experience in the field of governmental affairs?

Keyloggers are not designed to spy on people. They only ensure qualified specialists are doing the things you are paying them for. It’s ok to control the quality of the product before it’s released to the market – so how come checking out the process of its development is such a big deal?

Monitoring performance of people who work for you is your legal and rightful right. Spying on your workers is an entirely different thing though. If your logs are recording anything but work-related data you probably should stop.

But, if you are only receiving inputs that have no relation to a person’s tasks from his machine – use it as a valid background for a fitting punishment. You don’t have to know what a person is doing if you already know it’s not his work. That’s how you monitor ethically, without spying.

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