More Japanese Companies Spying on Employee PC Usage
Data leaks, file sharing among top reasons companies cite for increased monitoring of PC activities.
-- For many years now, companies have been able to keep
track of every Web site visited, e-mail sent and file accessed by their
workers through readily available tracking software.
Now a growing number of Japanese employers are monitoring their staff
with the help of homegrown programs designed to spy on their workers'
every move -- including using mini cameras installed on their computers,
a specialist said Thursday.
A recent study has shown that over 30 percent of large Japanese companies
monitor PC use among their staff, according to Masakazu Kobayashi, an
associate professor at Tokyo's Institute of Information Security.
Heightened concerns over a spate of data leaks -- especially those involving
the file-sharing software, Winny -- is likely to drive that percentage
up, Kobayashi said.
"It's scary," Kobayashi told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents'
Club of Japan. "In five years, most companies will be doing this."
Tracking software, which first appeared in the U.S. in the mid-1990s,
have become increasingly sophisticated in Japan, Kobayashi said.
A piece of software by SEER Insight Security Inc., for example, allows
bosses to visually monitor employees in realtime through mini web cameras,
zooming in when a worker acts suspicious.
Other recent programs produce reports on an employee's moves on a computer
down to the minute, or analyzes inter-worker relationships through e-mails
exchanged between each employee -- letting employers identify cliques
or loners within the work force.
Such tactics by employees aren't prohibited by Japanese law, and past
attempts by employers to sue their bosses over excessive monitoring have
been unsuccessful, Kobayashi said.
"The message is clear -- companies are telling their employees,
'Behave yourself because we're watching you,'" Kobayashi said.