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Canada Dashboard Digest | Notes from the IAPP Canada Managing Director, May 15, 2020 Related reading: Carissa Véliz on privacy, AI ethics and democracy

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I subscribe to the daily newsletter published by the CBC that arrives in my inbox first thing in the morning. It’s pretty good, and I really enjoy reading it ... most of the time. A little less so yesterday. 

Yesterday’s lead story was “No slacking allowed: Companies keep careful eye on work-from-home productivity during COVID-19.” It went on to explain that some organizations are forcing their employees to install and use some American-made software like ActivTrak, Teramind, Hubstaff and Time Doctor. Apparently, these apps monitor and report on things like employees’ screen time, the activity of their computer mouse, shots of what's on their screen at any given time and, in some cases, even their physical location via GPS.

One organization that uses this surveillance was quoted as follows: “We need to be holding people accountable. We need to know what people are working on. And I think it helps people stay more focused as well."

Motivating stuff, isn’t it? The article ended with something that actually made my skin crawl. A labor and employment lawyer stated, “There are no Canadian laws against an employer instituting such a system, as long as employees are fully informed about how the system works.”

I wonder if our privacy commissioners agree with this. All it takes is a notice saying you don’t have privacy and then you don’t have privacy? That can’t be right.

Elsewhere, I’ve written quite extensively on privacy in the workplace, and I seem to recall there are laws that regulate what employers are allowed to do. In fact, in Canada, there is a plethora of case law suggesting employers cannot use unreasonable means to monitor their employees. It would seem that some educational efforts are required to remind certain organizations of this. And maybe I shouldn’t have held back from correcting the CBC. What do you think?

Be safe everyone, and have a happy Friday. I imagine you’ll put in a good day’s worth today, regardless of whether or not you’re being watched.

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