Research finds most companies have installed spyware on work equipment

Kiwis working from home, during the pandemic, are being warned it's very likely they're being watched.

New research has found a majority of companies, worldwide, have installed spyware to keep an eye on their employees.

More Kiwis are working from home during the pandemic. Traffic woes and childcare costs are down, more quality family time is embraced. But employees are being warned - the bosses are watching.

"Recent research indicated that up to 80 percent of organisations around the world have put what's called spyware or 'tattleware' on their equipment," says university professor Peter Holland. 

In Australia, it's even higher - 90 percent.

It means on "company-supplied" computers, the boss can monitor keyboard use, mouse movements, and even use location tracking software.

"They can open up your security camera or WiFi camera and can use your phone's GPS to see where you are or keyloggers to see what you've been typing," says GadgetGuy's Val Quinn. 

Sales for the spyware are skyrocketing worldwide, especially across the ditch in Australia, and it's being marketed as a measure of productivity and efficiency.

But Prof Hollard says "there's no indications that it improves productivity".

Workers are concerned about a loss of privacy in their own homes.

"There was an increased sense that you were being watched all the time and I think people found that quite stressful."

Liz MacPherson, the acting Privacy Commissioner, says "just because the technology can do something for you, doesn't mean you should be using it". 

"Just remember - trust between an employer and employee is key and this technology could break that trust."

The New Zealand Privacy Commission says the employer needs to have a good business reason for watching and collecting any information and the employee needs to be informed.

"Employers, if they want to do the right thing, come and have a chat with us about how to set up your policy appropriately. 

"If you are an employee and you have any concerns at all in the way technology is being used by your employer to monitor you, come and have a chat to us, use our complaints form. It can help."

Some workers have found creative ways to fool the boss, but the bottom line is - it's best to use a personal device for any personal matters.

"Pretty much behave like we are being watched," says Quinn.

It should be noted that studies on working from home tend to show that people are actually more productive but that fails to appease many employers who are still worried that their time is being wasted.