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Big Brother In the Home Office 298

Posted by timothy
from the where-the-raspberry-pi-comes-in dept.
hessian writes with this excerpt from the New York Times' "Bits" column: "Tens of thousands of programmers, writers, accountants and other workers labor at home doing contract work for companies like Google, Hewlett-Packard and NBC. The computers they use contain software that takes snapshots of what they are doing six times an hour. The snooping occurs randomly, making it impossible for the computer user to game the system. It is probably more invasive than what happens to those working in offices, where scooting through Facebook entries, shopping on Cyber Monday, and peeping at N.S.F.W. ('Not Safe for Work') Web sites on corporate computers is both normal and rarely observed by managers."
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Big Brother In the Home Office

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  • Intolerable! (Score:1, Informative)

    by reubenavery (1047008) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:08PM (#38305454)
    Disgusting. Good thing I don't work for any of them, nor would I ever want to.
  • Can't be gamed? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jeff Hornby (211519) <`ac.ocitapmys' `ta' `ybnrohtj'> on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:09PM (#38305466) Homepage

    And here on my other computer ... anything that I want

  • Re:Intolerable! (Score:5, Informative)

    by 19thNervousBreakdown (768619) <davec-slashdot&lepertheory,net> on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:37PM (#38305874) Homepage

    You should read the article. For 1/6th the cost of an hourly wage (same rate snapshots are taken at), you can blank out an image. That seems fair to me, since you don't pay for the times when it didn't catch you, so your pay will approach the actual amount of time you spend working.

    You get to keep your privacy, and your pay. As long as there's a way to disable the software (and, presumably, not get paid) what's the problem?

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:44PM (#38305966)

    Probably a better way would be "cannot be gamed without substantial risk of getting fired".

    I really don’t get the need for this stuff, especially for programmers. I mean maybe in some jobs it makes sense, but as a programmer I know if I start slacking off it’s going to be pretty damn apparent when my stuff isn’t getting done or is of poor quality.

    Not to say metrics should be blindly used to gauge productivity, but any manager worth his weight in pepper packets is going to have a rough idea of how long stuff should be taking and is going to be aware of the quality of the work.

    If I was in the situation (assuming for some reason I didn’t just quit and find a company that doesn’t treat me like an assembly line worker) I’d probably just have my work PC separate and do any goofing off on a separate (unmonitored) computer as others have suggested. Maybe flip up a document or something that would be reasonable to show no activity for a few minutes.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @03:19PM (#38306398)
    If you dual boot the machine with the big brother software, booting into an alternate OS would make it seem to your employer as if you had the system powered down, i.e. you're not doing work.

    Best solution is to keep another machine right next to your work one. Leave the work one on, with "work stuff" on the screen, and periodically permute it to give the appearance of actually doing something. Unless they're also monitoring the frequency and volume of keystrokes (and mouse movements) then you should be alright.

    I'd also be curious to know how this software handles virtual screens, e.g. "Spaces" in OS X. If it only takes snapshots of the primary "space" then just put all your non-work stuff in a different space.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @10:29PM (#38311062)

    Like a lot of things, this probably isn't black-and-white. Maybe "Lumpy" wanted to get rid of the guy because the guy wasn't pulling his weight and it fell back on Lumpy to get things done. Or maybe Lumpy is a female and was highly offended by the porn, who knows. But looking at porn at work at watching TV are totally different things (unless you're watching the Playboy Channel or Spice). If the boss doesn't care, there's not much anyone can say about you watching TV. But if an employee is looking at porn on company property, that opens the employer up to a sexual harassment lawsuit if anyone sees this. So if a co-worker is looking at porn, and you can provide evidence, that's pretty much a sure-fire way of getting him canned. It doesn't matter if the employee was only looking at it for 15 minutes in the afternoon, while the employee next to him spent that same time playing Sudoku and some other guy went outside for a smoke break. Some activities are perfectly fine at work as long as the boss is OK with it, but certain other activities are absolutely not, and porn is one of those.

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