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Big Brother In the Home Office 298

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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  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:06PM (#38305428)

    Use another PC for private stuff!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:06PM (#38305432)

    What about the other (personnal) computer next to the work computer ?

  • by Noughmad ( 1044096 ) <> on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:11PM (#38305502) Homepage

    Because most people are still paid by the hour.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:12PM (#38305520) Homepage Journal

    I don't understand why anyone would tolerate this. I've done remote work for decades, since long before the internet made it possible to access client's source repositories or documentation sites as you can now. I've never had my billable hours questioned, and have always delivered quality software in the end.

    I'd be so insulted to have a client even suggest such an intrusive back-handed accusation that I'm ripping them off that I would immediately leave the negotiating table with a pair of digits waved on high as I headed out the door.

  • by dreemernj ( 859414 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:13PM (#38305532) Homepage Journal
    In this case, Big Brother is invited. The monitoring software they describe seems perfectly acceptable to me. If I was vying for a freelance position where I work at home and the condition was my work would be periodically checked, I would be fine with it. As long as all the expectations and the ways the data would be collected are presented up front, it seems completely reasonable.

    And having different standards in this case makes sense. This isn't monitoring full-time employees that you've rigorously hired and who will be reviewed by HR regularly and that have a real stake in keeping the position. This is for freelance, hourly workers that could be located anywhere in the world.
  • by AtomicJake ( 795218 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:16PM (#38305580)

    Actually when somebody is paying by the hour instead for the work done, you can bet that the hour is not too productive.

  • Re:Webcams too (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:16PM (#38305584) Journal
    Nobody's forcing people to use these sites - and it's in your best long-term interest to boycott them and their race to the bottom.

    Sites like odesk and elance are the quickest way to devalue yourself, your work, and your future.

  • by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:17PM (#38305598)'re doing it wrong. Lines of code, keystrokes per hour, etc. are almost universally shitty metrics. Your teleworkers are hired to do a job. Take the time to figure out how to effectively measure that, and then realize that intrusive steps like those in TFA are worse than useless.
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:21PM (#38305654) Journal

    But the employer has a right to know he is not flushing money down the toilet in paying you not to work and stealing his time away.

    He owns the equipment and has a right to do whatever he wants with it.

    Suck it up or dont work. If you were paying out of pocket your opinion would change drastically. It is no different than a work pc anyway.

  • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:28PM (#38305752) Homepage

    OK, I don't know exactly how old ODesk is, but, basically, it's been doing this forever.

    The client gets a view to into the desktop of the sweatoffice worker.

    I thought most Slashdotter knew about the top 2-3 outsourcing marketplaces (Elance, ODesk, Rentacoder) just as a matter of general knowledge.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AdrianKemp ( 1988748 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:37PM (#38305878)

    I am assuming that any company so paranoid that they're logging everything the employee is doing would be equally as batshit crazy about unexplained lulls in activity.

    I'm very suspicious about the "cannot be gamed" thing... it's software, ffs.

  • You are at work... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:42PM (#38305946)
    If you are suppose to be working, you are getting paid to work, why do you spend so much time and effort to find ways around not working.
    Let me guess this is also the same group of people who complain when they don't get promoted or are the first to get layoffs.
  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Thursday December 08, 2011 @02:55PM (#38306100) Journal

    Excellent point!!!!!

    Employees are paid by the hour. Independent contractors are paid by the piecework or by the job.

    Here's what the IRS has to say about it []

    Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor. There is no âoemagicâ or set number of factors that âoemakesâ the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.

    The keys are to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, to document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.

    So, what are these factors? From the same web page ...

    Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?

    These sites, dictating how the job is accomplished, sure look like it.

    Financial: Are the business aspects of the workerâ(TM)s job controlled by the payer? (these include things like how worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.)

    Paid by the hour sure sounds like it's not "contract work."

    Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

    Microsoft got into trouble with this with their perma-temps programs. You can't just repeatedly hire the same person "as a contract worker" forever - at one point, in the eyes of the IRS and the courts, they become an employee.

  • by preaction ( 1526109 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @03:00PM (#38306158)

    Part of my job is knowing how to program efficiently and effectively. This involves perusing websites, twitter feeds, wikipedia, personal blogs, news sites and other easily-misinterpreted content. I should not have to justify every single web request I make. I should not have to ask, before each decision to click a link, "Is this good for the Company?".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 08, 2011 @03:01PM (#38306184)

    Exactly the above. People with no sense of their work's worth and no self-respect are willing to submit to degradation in order to get jobs that don't pay well, and when they lower their personal value it lowers the businesses' perception of the value of each and every one of us.

  • by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @03:59PM (#38306936)

    Human beings are not built to work full tilt for 8 hours a day; if you want that sort of "productivity", buy a machine to do the work. Requiring breaks, time to think, etc are not examples of "being lazy". Employers want to squeeze more and more out of the same or less people, while at the same time real wages have remained stagnent for the last 30-40 years except for those in the top 1-5% of the population.

    I'm going long pitchfork futures.

  • Re:Webcams too (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Machtyn ( 759119 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:50PM (#38307722) Homepage Journal
    I'm sure several 4 hour loop streams can be utilized fairly effectively.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"