It is commonly believed that people are reliable on desktops to conduct their job and it is a irresistible trend based on the statics. So there comes a problem that we have to deal with: how can a employer make sure that his employees haven’t searched for something about entertainment or something else with nothing about their job? And the truth is that more and more working people tend to shop on web, chat with their friends or even play games during their work time. Maybe they just forget that they are paid to be showing their faces in the office for working, and most importantly, they are using the resources offered by their employers. On the behalf of employers, a reasonable way to monitor their employees computer activities becomes an issue.


Since the utilization of computer and internet in work hatched from the development of technology, this problem also can be solved by technology. Several IT companies developed software to monitor employees’ computer activities, and some even extended to phone spy. Then there comes another problem: how to monitor employees computer activity without going too far? A company has to make sure that their employees’ privacy has been ensured. The bottom line is that the company has to make sure that their monitoring is legally conducted. Here are some laws on phone and computer surveillance.

Laws on Phone and Computer Surveillance:

1. Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (part of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, 18 USC sec. 2510 et seq.). This federal law generally prohibits unauthorized “interception” or access to electronic communications and would include telephone, email and computer use. However, there are several huge exceptions that basically allow an employer to monitor anything on its own systems.

Business Exception: There is a business exception that allows an employer to monitor employee use of its own systems for “legitimate business needs.” This includes improving customer service, preventing harassment and making sure that people are actually working.

Consent to Monitoring: If one party to the communication consents to the monitoring, then monitoring is permitted even if the business exception does not apply. “Consent” requires the employer to give advance notice of its policy to monitor—it does not require the employees to agree. Consent is implied from the fact that they learned about the policy and decided to keep working there.

Employer Owned Systems: The owner of the email, IM and phone message systems is also allowed to access the communications even if they are personal.

Limitations on Employer Monitoring:No continuous monitoring. If the call is obviously personal, the employer has to stop listening. However, the employee can still be disciplined for making personal calls on company time.