Remote or not: why it is important to be attentive to any monitoring systems

The topic of “remote” this year has already bored everyone, but the world is forced to plunge into it with each new epidemiological wave and migrate en masse from the office. This process is associated with many difficulties, including in terms of adapting technologies and maintaining an appropriate level of information security. It is they who are increasingly associated with this format of work, and conversations about vanilla metrics – like reducing the time spent on travel to the workplace and back fade into the background.

Tobias Tullius /
Tobias Tullius /

The bitterness of an attractive image

At one point, it seemed that telecommuting could become one of the main drivers for modernizing the economy. Possibility its development due to the removal of branches of organizations closer to the homes of employees was described back in 1976, and for the last ten years, it seems, they have only discussed saving time on moving to the office and back. But most of the “vanilla metrics” for removal still had to be revised for the worse.

Fresh study experts from Harvard and New York University have shown that the apparent convenience of doing business in a dressing gown and slippers translates into a significant increase in the working day. According to their estimates, we are talking about an additional 48 minutes that have to be spent on preparing for calls and forced negotiations with colleagues.

In turn, large-scale “evacuation” from an office center in order to reduce corporate rental costs is also not always beneficial. At least for ordinary employees who find themselves in an unusual situation. Not every company will agree to compensate them for the costs of equipment, organization of a workplace at home and other indirect costs that were previously part of its daily obligations to personnel, and some companies did – are going reduce the wages of homeworkers.

But even without trying to argue about these topics, ignoring organizational complexities is really problematic. Only one spring wave of restrictions “washed ashore” a lot of problems associated with document flow: delays in sending papers and information security doing business with telecom staff. Managers often could not even master the simplest tools like remote workplaces in the cloud, although the latter would help remove most of the risks and inconveniences.

What can we say about the adaptation of solutions at the software level, many did not think about this until the fall. When it came, confusion returned to the daily life of a huge number of companies – they again had to move a significant number of staff out of the office, and the homeworkers themselves – to use solutions that were hastily assembled from old components and were not prepared for the changed conditions.

Old tricks for new problems

Those who were left in the office, and professionals whose activities do not fit well with the home environment, had to face more significant inconveniences. In addition to the increased epidemiological threat, and in many respects “thanks” to it, monitor their activity became more attentive and began to use new software and hardware tools for this. But their practical implementation has raised many questions.

how noticed Experts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), videotaping systems and GPS sensors, thrown into the front lines to monitor potentially affected by the virus, may indeed be collecting excessive amounts of data. According to the EFF, this fact is often confirmed by the vendors of such complexes themselves, but they are in no hurry to give clarifications on how the data is stored and used.

Applications for the regular collection of reports on the well-being and health of staff are a separate story, but for them these issues are sharpened even more.

In a number of countries, storing medical card data and information about the health of citizens requires separate agreements with the employer, not to mention the level of protection of the information received. But so far, organizations are in no hurry to change the customary order and in some cases serve such applications to employees as “assistants”, allowing them to assess the factors that affect productivity. What responsibility will such companies incur in the event of leaks of so-called “GTD data” and whether they are recognized by honey. information is not yet entirely clear.

  Bernard Hermant /
Bernard Hermant /

In the field of monitoring the educational process, a similar situation is developing. Only a few institutions were ready for the autumn quarantine, and a significant part of them decided to use the existing programs on remote control to control the examination process.

Therefore, now, even in the process of doing homework, students forced “Blink correctly” so that the algorithm does not consider them “substitute”, do not look away from the monitor for long periods of time and do not deviate to the side for prompts. The processing of monitoring data of minors, logs about the devices they use, their location and other information is a separate moment, but it seems that many are not up to it.

Adaptation needed

In the corporate IT environment, where everyone is already accustomed to being remotely and does not perceive what is happening as something unexpected, the situation is slightly better than in other areas. But outside the tech sector, sometimes extreme measures are taken – just checked with webcamswhether employees are sitting at their home workspace or not. Even in cases where companies do decide to use more advanced tools – for example, to monitor and protect infrastructure and control access to documents – there are questions about how the activity of such systems is perceived by employees themselves. The so-called bossware software is annoying.

By data In a recent study from the UK, 44% of respondents expressed extreme concern about remote monitoring, 80% admitted that they are not ready to work “under the camera”, and 74% spoke out against wearable sensors for monitoring.

After considering the general state of affairs in this area, the question arises: can we see truly effective and elegant solutions that will not cause a wave of mistrust? Or all the problems of remote workers will be thrown onto HR directors, cajole the latter just a new job title like “head of remote”? How the situation will develop, we all have to find out in the next few months.

Additional reading:

On Habré:

  • “If you have already leaked”: how to make the workflow a little safer

  • Amusing RFCs, YT channels for the weekend, a “live” comp from the 50s and the history of Fidonet

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