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Keystroke Logging Declared Illegal in Alberta 310

Meshach writes "The Globe and Mail has a story about how keystroke logging has been declared illegal in Alberta Canada. The ruling applies to companies using logging as a means to track employees." From the article: " The employee, who was not named, worked as a computer technician for six months in 2004. Ms. Silver said it was a job where productivity was hard to measure. 'We thought that using an objective check through the computer would be the most fair and objective way to do that,' she said Wednesday."
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Keystroke Logging Declared Illegal in Alberta

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  • monitoring (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quasar1999 ( 520073 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @03:47PM (#13006932) Journal
    I don't much mind if an employer of mine monitors what I'm doing at work while being paid. In my specific line of work, sometimes I'm asked to stay late to finish a project or meet a deadline. In exchange for doing this, I expect (and receive) a reasonable tolerance of doing personal things (like surfing to slashdot) during normal working hours. But if I started doing no work, and the employer didn't have to wait until my project got screwed, and the deadline missed by months before realising that I'm not working, then I say it's well worth it. Even more so if they get one of my coworkers, since that saves me work in the long term... Privacy be damned, as long as it's not abused, I welcome it.
  • by hesiod ( 111176 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @03:49PM (#13006968)
    If keylogging is declared illegal, how much of a stretch would it be to declare that scanning EMails or even net traffic for inappropriate material is illegal?
  • Gotta rethink things (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Thursday July 07, 2005 @03:51PM (#13006990) Journal
    There goes my idea of logging all keystrokes, mouse movement, and monochrome screenshots every minute from every system on the network thru VNC. I calculated that I could get it all down to only 200mb per day for 25 systems. A 250gb hard drive could hold many years of this data.
  • US centric thinking? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ( 142825 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @03:53PM (#13007023) Homepage
    In the USA this type of activity is permitted in most situations. Canada has privacy protections for individuals which seem to limit this type of monitoring.

    [sarcasm]Why not let the employer and police monitor everything you do? You only have something to hide if you are a criminal.[/sarcasm]

  • Right... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xstonedogx ( 814876 ) <> on Thursday July 07, 2005 @03:54PM (#13007036)
    'We thought that using an objective check through the computer would be the most fair and objective way to do that,' she said Wednesday."

    Because the amount of typing is a sure indicator of productivity. /sarcasm

    Sorry, but about the only thing it will tell you is whether someone is spending time using email, message boards, and instant messages for personal use.

    And it's poor at that, because unless they're doing A LOT of non-work related typing, you don't really know how much time they're spending doing non-work related stuff. We all type at different speeds. Maybe it's all on their lunch hour.

    Besides, you can check all that stuff in other, less intrusive ways.

    Objective? Please. Except in obvious cases (like data entry as another poster mentioned) this requires subjective review by its very nature.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 07, 2005 @04:00PM (#13007107)
    The privacy commissioner ruled that the library had been collecting personal information. That's not the same as saying that keystroke logging is illegal. Presumably keystroke logging would be legal if no personal information were collected. The library denied that they actually looked at or used the files other than to confirm activity. The commissioner obviously didn't believe them.

    The commissioner didn't say you couldn't monitor employees. He also didn't say that you have to tell employees when you are monitoring them.

    This is a pretty narrow ruiling.
  • by MrFreshly ( 650369 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @04:03PM (#13007126)
    So it would make it illegal to have video surveillance too? If you can SEE the keyboard and the keys being pressed...Other than key logging being cheaper and the obvious format differences, what's the difference?
  • by agraupe ( 769778 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @04:13PM (#13007236) Journal
    No, you can't *make* them work. But you can hire them, provided that they want the job. I don't see why this should be against the law. I know a lot of kids my age (~16) that break the labour laws of their own free will so they can make more money. It works out well for everyone involved.
  • EASY SOLUTION (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spy der Mann ( 805235 ) <spydermann.slash ... minus cat> on Thursday July 07, 2005 @04:16PM (#13007278) Homepage Journal
    If only keystrokes are logged, try:

    abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789 http : // . com org (insert custom signs here)

    and save it into "test.txt". Then it's only matter of copying and pasting text. You can use the mouse if you want.
    results: Shift, right, ctrl-c, right right right right... etc.

    It's not that there aren't workarounds. It's just that they haven't been found yet.
  • This Is Bulls**t. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ubuntu ( 876029 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @04:32PM (#13007447) Journal
    How can it be the company's responsibility to police employee use in order to prevent kiddie porn, piracy, death threats, etc. on company computers if your hands are tied behind your back? Companies have been often charged for crimes their employees have committed...

    At a place I used to work, half the people were salesmen, who, because they went out on the road all the time, had laptops. They would change their Windows XP passwords and not tell management. They would change MANY passwords (to supplier e-commerce sites, etc.) and not tell management. They would use Hotmail to avoid corporate email (which was logged). Our IT guy would go onto their computer when they were out at lunch to run Ad-Aware and the antivirus (salesmen don't give a damn) and would find MOUNTAINS of porn, half-finished resumes, and a copy of our entire corporate network on the guy's hard drive! That's not acceptable, and the guy was warned, but all he did was a) change his password, b) set his screensaver to password protected and had a hotkey to launch it whenever he got up from his desk.

    The pendulum has swung too far against the OWNERS of the property in favour of the USERS of said property.

    This just makes corporate espionage, like stealing customer lists and selling them to the competition undetected all the easier.
  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @05:21PM (#13007981)
    The idea is the get the business to serve your interests. For example, they'll make you a car or build you a house or cook you a meal if you give them some money. They're actually helping you. And they do it because that money you gave them will come back to you when you do something for them. It's reciprocity. It's people helping people, although they rarely realize it.

    Governments don't do that. They simply make demands on you or you go to jail.

    They're helping me because it serves their short term interests. If screwing me over did so instead, they'd do it in a heart beat. There is no control on buisnesses. You'll take your money elsewhere? They don't give a fuck- there's a million more like you. At least with politicians, you can vote them out of office. And in local elections, your vote *does* matter.

    Corporations are the dictators of the 20th century. They have almost unlimited power when compared to the ordinary human being. They legally can't be touched (the corporate veil) and made accountable for their actions. There are no checks and balances over them. The only reason they aren't dictators in fact is that they have no army. And the only reason they don't is because the government wouldn't allow it. If they could march an army into some third world country and force them to work instead of hiring them as workers, they would in a second.

    Given a choice between vesting power in an organization with checks and balances and with citizen control (government) and one without either (corporations, which are owned by a small plutocracy), I'll give it to the one I have some control over.

    And no, neither is not an option. In many cases I wish it was. But welcome to the real world- money IS power. If they have power, they will use it. And they will not use it to benefit you- they will use it to benefit themselves. Look at the laws they buy (DCMA, broadcast flag, pork barrel projects, etc). None of these benefit you, they benefit themselves. The only thing we can use is the one power we have left- the government. Decide what we will and won't allow a corporation to do, a set of ethics they must follow to be allowed to incorporate and sell their goods in America. Punish those who break it harshly- pierce the corporate veil.

    Does that solution have issues? Of coruse it does, it causes even more power to be placed in the government's hands. But better there than where no checks and balances exist. The main risk is from religious fanatics who will try and use it to limit products in violation of the first amendment "for the children". Of course thats a general problem with any form of government, and the solution to it needs to be dealt with separately

  • by Medevo ( 526922 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @05:23PM (#13008007) Homepage
    Alberta is a strange place to live. We arguably have one of the most conservative (both C and c) provincial governments in the entire province, but the rulings on parts of social policy always seem to swing in every which direction.

    The "as young as 12" thing doesn't surprise me, for years kids that age having been working through a loophole in the system where the "parent" is hired to do a job like being a paperboy or fast food but the kid does all the work and gets the money. What happened was the parents name and age would go down on the application, but the kids SIN (Canadian Social Security #) would be put down, so the kid even got the tax forms.

    What I want to know personally is how this ruling applies to students (currently a university student in Alberta). I know that my High school had some hacked up version of tightVNC installed on each computer that at times would saturate the network, and made compiling when drawing on libraries on the network drive slow as death. While I would love to see the CBE get sued or similar over some keystroke logging issue, I doubt the privacy commission is going to listen to a bunch of whiney 17ish geeks. Eventually I just used a SSH tunnel to a Terminal Server at home for all the stuff I did at school, no screwing around with disks or network drives.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @06:00PM (#13008361) Journal
    I know when someone is standing behind me. I don't know when someone is using a keylogger, which makes it unacceptable. A man should be strung up for treating others that way.
  • Re:monitoring (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zulux ( 112259 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @07:07PM (#13009081) Homepage Journal

    My company is works the other way:

    My employees work for 6 hours per day - they're paid for 8.
    In exchange for having 2 hours of time to spend with family, avoid rush hour, and walk in the park, I expect no screwing around. Period.

    It works! They're productive and happy at the same time. I think I'm actually getting a bargain, because they work *hard* during those six hours. They get to go home and have a life.

  • by Bullfish ( 858648 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @07:07PM (#13009085)
    This is indicative of a philosophical difference between Canada and the US. In the US, business is king. In Canada, business is a means to prosperity for the owners and employees. However, it is recognized that people have to work to eat etc and that business holds the advantage over their employees.

    As a result there is more legislation regarding workers rights than in the US. For example, in the US, your boss can come up to you and order you to pee in a bottle to see if you smoked a joint recently. In Canada, unless you are a pilot, railroad engineer etc where your performance could hurt others, this is forbidden. Also, I was surprised to find that in the US, paid vacation time is not a requirement. In Canada, you are entitled to two weeks per year minimum by law.

    There are other examples, but you get the idea.
  • Re:Could be ok (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BlueCup ( 753410 ) on Thursday July 07, 2005 @07:19PM (#13009212) Homepage Journal
    This is modded funny, but this really happened to me. I wrote macros that were able to automate the work, and go 8 times the second fastest... my employer however would say I wasn't working hard enough (ignoring the actual output) I tried explaining how the macros increased my productivity... but she didn't get it, and eventually told me I had to start typing everything again... so I quit. And now I wait tables.

"Wish not to seem, but to be, the best." -- Aeschylus