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While you're at work, who's watching you?

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You're at work. You're watching emails come in, faxes and reports. 

All the while someone is likely watching you: your employer.  

This really became a topic of interest in light of the Petraeus case. Just how much privacy do you really have in the digital era?

As we found out, practically none.

But when it comes to being on the web at work, a place where your professional life and personal life collide, there are ways to tell whether someone's watching you.

New technology makes it easier than ever to give your boss a window into your work space, and a recent survey shows between half and 2/3 of employers admit to watching some of what their employees do online.

At information Technology Architects in Evansville, they build and maintain computer networks for hospitals, energy companies, even NASA. Owner Keith Barnett says part of that job is giving employers the ability to watch what goes on online.

"The employer usually wants to look for the ability to see what their employees are doing throughout the day. Make sure the employees are not distracted and doing something other than taking care of the customer," Barnett.

There are a few common ways an employer could watch you.  Barnett says one is a hardware device called an appliance that is hard coded to look for site access and restrict it, monitor it and track it.

The other most common method is via software that's built into a router or a firewall. It would also block restricted sites and let admins monitor computer activity.

You're probably thinking how would I know if it's on my computer? The truth is, if it's installed properly, you wouldn't know.

"They really won't know. They really won't know. Because the regular folks out there don't know what's under the hood, so to say. So, they really don't have any idea where to start looking," Barnett said.  

Now, if you work for a small operation, not a corporation, your boss may have installed one of these "over-the-counter" types of software: Spy Agent, Web Watcher, PC Pandora, or Sniper Spy.  You can usually find evidence of these in the startup folder if your admin hasn't chosen to hide them.

You may also find evidence of one of them down in the corner in the task bar. Hovering over the icon reveals the program actively running on your computer.

There's still one more way to find out whether you're being watched at work: your company handbook.

Here at 14 news, every new hire gets one of these. And right here on page 27, it says "to the extent that employees wish their private activities remain private, they should avoid using the company computer."  That's pretty clear.

If you go looking for monitoring software and find it, tread carefully.  Barnett says trying to uninstall them could land you in the corner office.

"That leaves a trail, too, so whoever is watching you, the administrator, the employer, whoever, they're going to see what you're trying to do and so that can kind of cause some problems at review time," Barnett said.

In the end, Barnett says your company owns the computer and the network so they are free to monitor it.  Every company is different. Some may not care that you're on Facebook. It may be grounds for termination elsewhere.  So, know your employer.  

A good rule of thumb- don't do anything online you wouldn't do if your boss was standing next to you.

"Exactly, you have to imagine that your boss is looking over your shoulder because nine times out of ten, you will be being monitored," Barnett said.

Now, if there's something you absolutely must do online at work, but being online is forbidden at your workstation, don't forget about your smart phone.

It's your device and as long as your using your data plan on your break time, you can buy concert tickets, check your email account, or browse Pinterest on your break in perfect privacy.

Copyright 2012 WFIE. All rights reserved.

 

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