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Big Brother In the Home Office

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the where-the-raspberry-pi-comes-in dept.

Privacy 298

hessian writes with this excerpt from the New York Times' "Bits" column: "Tens of thousands of programmers, writers, accountants and other workers labor at home doing contract work for companies like Google, Hewlett-Packard and NBC. The computers they use contain software that takes snapshots of what they are doing six times an hour. The snooping occurs randomly, making it impossible for the computer user to game the system. It is probably more invasive than what happens to those working in offices, where scooting through Facebook entries, shopping on Cyber Monday, and peeping at N.S.F.W. ('Not Safe for Work') Web sites on corporate computers is both normal and rarely observed by managers."

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So... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305428)

Use another PC for private stuff!

Re:So... (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305682)

Or dual boot???

In my case since I run an older SSD and space is limited, I'd boot my dev partition off a spinning disk.

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305878)

I am assuming that any company so paranoid that they're logging everything the employee is doing would be equally as batshit crazy about unexplained lulls in activity.

I'm very suspicious about the "cannot be gamed" thing... it's software, ffs.

Re:So... (4, Informative)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305966)

Probably a better way would be "cannot be gamed without substantial risk of getting fired".

I really don’t get the need for this stuff, especially for programmers. I mean maybe in some jobs it makes sense, but as a programmer I know if I start slacking off it’s going to be pretty damn apparent when my stuff isn’t getting done or is of poor quality.

Not to say metrics should be blindly used to gauge productivity, but any manager worth his weight in pepper packets is going to have a rough idea of how long stuff should be taking and is going to be aware of the quality of the work.

If I was in the situation (assuming for some reason I didn’t just quit and find a company that doesn’t treat me like an assembly line worker) I’d probably just have my work PC separate and do any goofing off on a separate (unmonitored) computer as others have suggested. Maybe flip up a document or something that would be reasonable to show no activity for a few minutes.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38306012)

There wouldn't have to be a lull in activity if you used your own home computer for awhile. Just start some stupid internal web cast of the company president, VP, etc. talking about the company strategy, then do whatever on your personal machine for a bit.

Re:So... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305892)

So with key counter and mouse movement tracking software, or a random webcam snapshop. They cannot prove you are goofing off, but they can prove you are not really working.

Re:So... (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305950)

they can prove you are not really working.

That is what this is really about. They want to be able to reduce management overhead by having people work from home while still allowing someone to look in on everyone to make sure everyone is working.

Re:So... (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305996)

Micromanagement without the management?

Brilliant!

Well... not really.

You are at work... (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305946)

If you are suppose to be working, you are getting paid to work, why do you spend so much time and effort to find ways around not working.
Let me guess this is also the same group of people who complain when they don't get promoted or are the first to get layoffs.

Re:You are at work... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38306082)

and want to unionize...

Re:You are at work... (5, Insightful)

preaction (1526109) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306158)

Part of my job is knowing how to program efficiently and effectively. This involves perusing websites, twitter feeds, wikipedia, personal blogs, news sites and other easily-misinterpreted content. I should not have to justify every single web request I make. I should not have to ask, before each decision to click a link, "Is this good for the Company?".

Re:You are at work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38306174)

If you are supposed to be given assignments that can be completed in 40 hours per-week, you are getting paid to work 40 hours per-week, why do companies always set project schedules that require working (many) more than 40 hours per-week. In the early 90's when there was less unemployment, this was the same group of companies who complained when they couldn't hold on to employees.

There are two sides to that coin.

Re:You are at work... (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306230)

In this situation, that expectation wouldn't exist for most employees. What makes you think you're getting paid to work 40 hours a week?

Humm, not possible to game the system ? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305432)

What about the other (personnal) computer next to the work computer ?

Re:Humm, not possible to game the system ? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305620)

That was my thought, I have a desktop and a laptop on my desk. Unless of course they come over to the employees house randomly to make sure that there aren't any unapproved of computing devices, in which case I'd be more concerned with that.

Re:Humm, not possible to game the system ? (2)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305900)

It wouldn't work because of two words after the colon: work progress.

It's not that a worker wouldn't be allowed to get up and grab a snack or defecate, but you'd be able to target your inefficient workers pretty easily with something like this. Now the way to game the system would be to set up voice recognition on the work computer, and text to speech on your personal computer, and then point it at something work related to be typed... :)

Webcams too (4, Interesting)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305450)

I know at least one freelancing website that also allows employers to require a feed of the contractor's webcam.

Re:Webcams too (4, Funny)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305538)

That's fine. If they enjoy looking at the sticky side of black tape that much, I will happily send them a framed print.

Re:Webcams too (2)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305566)

And you wouldn't get paid, so I guess it would be about even.

Re:Webcams too (2)

1_brown_mouse (160511) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305736)

I would. Because I would not be working via that freelancing website. You want a job done, I will do it. You want to watch me do it? rate goes up x10.

I think housing contractors have a similar fee structure.

Re:Webcams too (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305888)

For a 10x rate increase I'd let the disturbed employer watch me code their project. It would be pretty boring, but they asked to look at my mug, not be entertained. Their money. Also if I decide to take a break the only difference is that I have to keep a straight face if I read anything funny.

Re:Webcams too (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305918)

Which is fine by them because then they will get someone else who will be willing to do it while watching for cheaper.

Re:Webcams too (2, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306068)

I'd still get paid chief; if I'm smart enough to be writing code, I'm smart enough to hook into the webcam driver and provide my own feed (boring coder loop for the win!).

Re:Webcams too (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306106)

You mean not a printed pic of the goatse guy? I think one incident of that would change official policy ASAP. Sexual harassment suits galore scare employers more than anything

Re:Webcams too (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305562)

Point the webcam away when not using it, or unplug it?

I don't see how this kind of monitoring amounts to anything on company-provided equipment used in a work-from-home setting, or honestly, even in user-supplied equipment in a work-from-home setting. As numerous others have said, this can be defeated in the former with using one's own computer for not-work-appropriate activities, and if using one's own computer (and only computer), using virtualization to create a computer-within-computer for the work stuff. Simply install the software on the virtual machine and it can't get to what's going on in the real one.

Re:Webcams too (5, Funny)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305672)

It is clearly an invitation to work in the nude.

Re:Webcams too (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305948)

You've not had much experience with HR have you? It'd work for the first day, after which you'd have just been responsible for implementing business formal dress code for every teleworking employee the company has. After a year, everyone would be happy with the company when they were allowed to take the suit jackets off and just keep the ties and shirt (presumably pants, but unless it's a full field web cam in another part of the room...).

Re:Webcams too (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305576)

that would be funny, if any place I ever contracted for would ask for feed to my webcam. I don't have one, and I would not let them attach one. if they stopped the contract, so be it, but my skills are very rare.

Re:Webcams too (3, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305584)

Nobody's forcing people to use these sites - and it's in your best long-term interest to boycott them and their race to the bottom.

Sites like odesk and elance are the quickest way to devalue yourself, your work, and your future.

Re:Webcams too (1)

poena.dare (306891) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306064)

Avoid them... or use them to set up a massive confidence game. Oooo that is a book just waiting to be written!

Re:Webcams too (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306122)

Sad thing is, I'm willing to be it'll become pretty much standard eventually.

Re:Webcams too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305804)

I know one freelancing website that will only attract the most desperate people.

Intolerable! (1, Informative)

reubenavery (1047008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305454)

Disgusting. Good thing I don't work for any of them, nor would I ever want to.

Re:Intolerable! (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305540)

the company oDesk is doing it to its contractors, apparently their services have been used by the named companies (Google, HP, and NBC).

Different than those companies doing it directly, as likely most of their contractors have no such spy system in place. However, maybe you or others would refuse to work for a company that does any business with oDesk (and can find that out) .

Re:Intolerable! (3, Interesting)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305602)

They're voluntarily exchanging a cube for a long leash. I don't see it as unreasonable, but rather a fair trade. Flexibility to work where and possibly when they want. In exchange they trade their physically present human supervisor for an automated screen-capture software. This isn't a web cam in the bathroom type intrusion, merely an alternate form of the same supervision they'd receive if they were physically present at the office.

Re:Intolerable! (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305960)

Yup. Bosses walk by in the hallway too.

Re:Intolerable! (1)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305982)

So long as the when isn't possibly, I agree; however I also acknowledge that my position is not everyones.

If an employer want's me to put in 8 hours of logged activity on a computer they provide at any time during a 24 hour day, perfect.

However the only reason that I prefer to work from home is the flexibility of time; so long as I am not in meetings it makes no difference when I do the work so long as it's done.

I however work for an employer that recognizes that it is the quality and amount of work, not how many hours you spend at a desk, that is the valid and important metric.

Re:Intolerable! (5, Informative)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305874)

You should read the article. For 1/6th the cost of an hourly wage (same rate snapshots are taken at), you can blank out an image. That seems fair to me, since you don't pay for the times when it didn't catch you, so your pay will approach the actual amount of time you spend working.

You get to keep your privacy, and your pay. As long as there's a way to disable the software (and, presumably, not get paid) what's the problem?

Impossible (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305458)

Because I don't have another computer at home.

Can't be gamed? (3, Informative)

Jeff Hornby (211519) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305466)

And here on my other computer ... anything that I want

Re:Can't be gamed? (2)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305522)

Yeah, but while you are updating your Facebook status and reading Slashdot on your personal PC there is no activity on your work PC.

Re:Can't be gamed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305618)

Yeah, and when you're thinking about some tricky problem, there's no activity on the computer, either.

Re:Can't be gamed? (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306054)

But presumably they know how long the average tricky problem needs to be thought about. There can be reasonable ways of requesting (or requiring) employee accountability.

Re:Can't be gamed? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305716)

So move the mouse every five minutes, or pretend to be reading a very long document and just scroll a bunch downward. That's still a fair amount of wiggle room!

Re:Can't be gamed? (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305822)

Ding! What IT professional wouldn't have their own PC sitting right next to it for the occasional mental break, personal email, etc?

First? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305470)

Haha. I only work about 15mins a week in the office.

As long as it's all consensual (2)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305478)

and all people involved are okay with it, I guess it's okay. But why would they spend resources on this in the first place? They pay for something to be done within a certain timeframe, and if they don't it's just a breach of contract right? Why would they care about the details?

Re:As long as it's all consensual (4, Insightful)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305502)

Because most people are still paid by the hour.

Re:As long as it's all consensual (1)

Jeff Hornby (211519) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305510)

Actually, they're paying by the hour, so they want to make sure that the hour is productive.

Re:As long as it's all consensual (3, Insightful)

AtomicJake (795218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305580)

Actually when somebody is paying by the hour instead for the work done, you can bet that the hour is not too productive.

Re:As long as it's all consensual (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305706)

Even not by the hour it is still theft. If you are capable of Y per week but produce y.7 that is a 30% loss times your salary.

Re:As long as it's all consensual (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305898)

How's that? Just because you've agreed to deliver something by a set date doesn't mean that you're in an employer-employee relationship with that entity?

Re:As long as it's all consensual (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305930)

There's no need to troll / flamebait. We all know that no employer ever pays for 100% of "capability". If you really wanted to derail the discussion, you should have posted this as high up on the comment tree as possible.

Re:As long as it's all consensual (2)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306212)

Mcdonalds they sure do and in factories and call centers. Tough work and your getting paid 4x as much so why not? Someone out of work will be happy to if you wont. Thats capitalism

Information & Power Asymmetry (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305600)

Even in the most charitable scenario, in a contract-job situation -- The business can learn if you really need all that time, or whether they can tighten the screws for concessions in the next contract negotiation. Broadly, this is how capitalism has always worked.

TWO PC's (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305490)

So what is to stop the people from using two PC's? Or more likely, turn the TV on while they work?

This software seems in-effective to me.

Re:TWO PC's (2)

CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305586)

That is why they also monitor keyboard and mouse activity.

Of course that can be faked / simulated as well. A dedicated programmer will always be able to out-program such systems but at a certain point it becomes work to avoid surveillance than to just do the job at hand.

Virtualization (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305498)

You don't even need another computer--just run your work machine as a VM.

Every day uses for VMs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305514)

I have a friend who works from home. Phone support for a TV satellite provider.
He doesn't take any chances, and does all of his work from inside a VM that he only uses for work related activity.
Its not a company issued machine, but who knows what could be included in the client software he's required to use.

Why would anyone tolerate this? (5, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305520)

I don't understand why anyone would tolerate this. I've done remote work for decades, since long before the internet made it possible to access client's source repositories or documentation sites as you can now. I've never had my billable hours questioned, and have always delivered quality software in the end.

I'd be so insulted to have a client even suggest such an intrusive back-handed accusation that I'm ripping them off that I would immediately leave the negotiating table with a pair of digits waved on high as I headed out the door.

Re:Why would anyone tolerate this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305714)

I graduated within the last three years and would be willing to work with these conditions and for less.

There is your answer.

Re:Why would anyone tolerate this? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38306184)

Exactly the above. People with no sense of their work's worth and no self-respect are willing to submit to degradation in order to get jobs that don't pay well, and when they lower their personal value it lowers the businesses' perception of the value of each and every one of us.

desperation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305810)

People tolerate this because they have no choice, they are not in a position to negotiate. People who desperately need a job are easily exploited.

Re:Why would anyone tolerate this? (-1, Troll)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305854)

Because most people are thieves. People on average work only 60% of the time. Water cooler chat, lunch, texting, web browsing, stretching, add up. This recession is focusing on less producing more and the fact its working shows people were not as committed.

I had shitty minimum wage jobs where I had to clock in before if your getting paid many times more why cant you? Its not fair to the entry level grunts at your company or client

Re:Why would anyone tolerate this? (3, Interesting)

ZorinLynx (31751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305932)

If people get their job done and are productive, does it really matter?

I've always hated the idea of micromanaging workers. It should be about getting the job done. If the job isn't done? Discipline/fire the employee. If the job is done, great! Anything else shouldn't matter.

Re:Why would anyone tolerate this? (2)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306196)

I had shitty minimum wage jobs where I had to clock in before if your getting paid many times more why cant you? Its not fair to the entry level grunts at your company or client

I think you've identified your problem. Don't bitch about having a minimum wage grunt work job when its something that will probably be replaced fairly quickly with either code or robotics in short order (by those of us who get to chat during the day, hang around the water cooler for 15 min, etc.).

I don't get paid for each productive minute of my day; I get paid for the knowledge and experience I've gained over the last 14 years. This is the difference between entry level/manual labor and educated work.

Note: I mean no disrespect to manual labor; I've worked at UPS on the night shifts over a decade ago loading trucks at night, as well as a forklift driver. But you can't complain that work like that is anything related to complex system analysis or workflow design and management.

Re:Why would anyone tolerate this? (2)

DamnStupidElf (649844) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306108)

Just ask to be able to log into their bank's website and examine their cash balance six times a day, at random times. Gotta make sure the paycheck won't bounce.

This seems perfectly acceptable. (4, Insightful)

dreemernj (859414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305532)

In this case, Big Brother is invited. The monitoring software they describe seems perfectly acceptable to me. If I was vying for a freelance position where I work at home and the condition was my work would be periodically checked, I would be fine with it. As long as all the expectations and the ways the data would be collected are presented up front, it seems completely reasonable.

And having different standards in this case makes sense. This isn't monitoring full-time employees that you've rigorously hired and who will be reviewed by HR regularly and that have a real stake in keeping the position. This is for freelance, hourly workers that could be located anywhere in the world.

Re:This seems perfectly acceptable. (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305924)

In every case, Big Brother is invited

Protect us from those dangerous people! Please put in surveillance equipment! Please rig the phone system for panopticon-style wiretapping!

Two computers? (4, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305534)

Isn't the fatal flaw in their product the fact that a home worker might actually have *two* computers? While he moves the mouse around on the work computer and looks like he's reading a technical manual, on his other computer he's surfing porn and building a website for his company's competitor?

Or he could just run the work computer as a virtual machine and surf porn on the host instance.

And there's the security risk - what if someone hacks the ODesk interface, so the screenshots from your home worker entering medical data get published to the web, resulting in a big HIPAA violation fine (or they store those screenshots on an offshore server, and extort you into paying them to not publish them).

Aren't there better ways to measure home worker productivity without introducing a large potential security hole with a product that is easily circumvented? Maybe managers should actually *manage* instead of relying on technology to do it for them?

If you're measuring productivity that way (5, Insightful)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305598)

...you're doing it wrong. Lines of code, keystrokes per hour, etc. are almost universally shitty metrics. Your teleworkers are hired to do a job. Take the time to figure out how to effectively measure that, and then realize that intrusive steps like those in TFA are worse than useless.

Re:If you're measuring productivity that way (1)

Roogna (9643) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305840)

Exactly. It's also surprisingly easy to measure performance. For instance, I own my own company, we do our own software as well as contracts for outside firms. In both cases we do design, set milestones with expected completion dates, and performance is easy to judge. We're either meeting our milestones or we aren't. If we aren't, we can always pinpoint the exact feature that's holding a milestone up.

Re:If you're measuring productivity that way (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305846)

500 lines of error filled code vs 100 clean lines? I'll take the clean lines tyvm.

Are they 1099s? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305630)

I don't know about you, but my management has VERY different attitudes about the web surfing habits of employees vs. contractors. If you're billing us hourly there is an expectation of NO personal business on the clock.

Do they know they are being watched? (0)

CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305646)

Do these users know that they are being monitored?
Obviously they know that some piece of software is active, they've installed it themselves, but do they realize how intense this monitoring is? I would imagine that they think it's some kind of collaboration tool whilethe details are hidden in the fine print of the contract.

Re:Do they know they are being watched? (1)

malakai (136531) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305814)

Jesus man... srsly? a five-digit who didn't RTFA....

The hours are verified by the screen shots, which workers can see before their employers do. Untoward images, like a Skype conversation with a spouse or something worse, can be blanked out, at a cost to the employee of one-sixth of the hourly wage. The software can also drill deeper, looking at things like individual key strokes and where someone moved the computer mouse. Employers who see something they do not like can likewise dispute that portion of the work.

You can choose to block any data from going to your employer, but then you forfeit that time. It's not a bad idea if you _have_ to pay people by the hour and want them to work remotely. Ideally, more and more people should be paid for milestones and smaller size projects with some sort of auditable 'test' that validates whether they succeeded or not ( and should be pair or not).

Lets be honest though, most people, in offices, are very unproductive. Even with the occasional 'chance' of some manger walking by and checking on them.

Let's hope they don't have a /. window open... (1)

milbournosphere (1273186) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305648)

They'd get nothing but a time-lapse of a large blue SorceForge logo surrounded by a few changing stories and articles.

Not to sound assholish (2, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305654)

But the employer has a right to know he is not flushing money down the toilet in paying you not to work and stealing his time away.

He owns the equipment and has a right to do whatever he wants with it.

Suck it up or dont work. If you were paying out of pocket your opinion would change drastically. It is no different than a work pc anyway.

Re:Not to sound assholish (2)

bhlowe (1803290) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305764)

This is just another way to let fewer people manage more workers.. and we're all for automation and work-place efficiencies? Right?

I hire on odesk and never look at the screen captured images.. But if the employee is not producing, I might want to know what's up. It may also curb some on the clock facebooking. All a worker has to do is hit the pause work button and he can surf and watch NSFW content as much as he wants.

The real issue is that wages for all computer users are getting driven down to 3rd-world levels.. because I can hire a guy anywhere for $10/hour that is

Re:Not to sound assholish (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305836)

He owns the equipment and has a right to do whatever he wants with it.

No, the employer doesn't own either the equipment OR the bandwidth being used. This is about those cheap no-frills freelance sites, where you're competing with hourly workers from the 3rd world.

Re:Not to sound assholish (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305942)

he also doesn't have the right to control or monitor when and where you work, if you're really a freelancer.
if the employer exerts that much control over your job, you are an EMPLOYEE not an independent contractor, and if the employer is not paying payroll taxes on your behalf, they are committing tax fraud.

Re:Not to sound assholish (3, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306100)

Excellent point!!!!!

Employees are paid by the hour. Independent contractors are paid by the piecework or by the job.

Here's what the IRS has to say about it [irs.gov]

Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor. There is no âoemagicâ or set number of factors that âoemakesâ the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.

The keys are to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, to document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.

So, what are these factors? From the same web page ...

Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?

These sites, dictating how the job is accomplished, sure look like it.

Financial: Are the business aspects of the workerâ(TM)s job controlled by the payer? (these include things like how worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.)

Paid by the hour sure sounds like it's not "contract work."

Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

Microsoft got into trouble with this with their perma-temps programs. You can't just repeatedly hire the same person "as a contract worker" forever - at one point, in the eyes of the IRS and the courts, they become an employee.

Convert OS into VM image, run on different machine (3, Interesting)

ad454 (325846) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305700)

Here is a trick that I used. I received a company issued Dell laptop with Windows. I installed converted it into a VM (Virtual Machine) image with VMware converter tool, and then installed that VM on my Mac.

Whenever I need to do corporate stuff I do it in the VM, and all of the personal stuff I do on my Mac host machine. (This trick works for Linux hosts as well.)

Any spyware on my VM does not obtain any information about my personal activity in the host OS.

Re:Convert OS into VM image, run on different mach (1)

udoschuermann (158146) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305906)

The spyware can probably check the virtualized machine's "hardware" and report the fact that the environment has been virtualized. This might give rise to suspicions.

So? (0)

mholve (1101) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306260)

"Because I use sandboxes for development and testing."

Or maybe, "Of course; if it ever gets infected I can delete the VM and copy in a fresh one to get back up and running straight away."

Big Distributor (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305728)

What is described is a network that allows employers and contractors to come together at a global (Internet based) exchange, which increases the efficiencies and productivity.

Sure, part of the software described is used to monitor and evaluate the work of the contractor, but as the story states - competitive contractors see their hourly rates increase by a factor of 3-4, so this is good for allocating resources.

This is a good development, not a bad one.

just use AutoIT (1)

cod3r_ (2031620) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305750)

to randomly do things.. record some basic repeatable tasks that make you appear you are doing something important.

Slashdot ... 10 years too late (3, Insightful)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305752)

OK, I don't know exactly how old ODesk is, but, basically, it's been doing this forever.

The client gets a view to into the desktop of the sweatoffice worker.

I thought most Slashdotter knew about the top 2-3 outsourcing marketplaces (Elance, ODesk, Rentacoder) just as a matter of general knowledge.

come on, work=work computer, porn=private computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305766)

if you're unwilling to use your private computer, or phone, or tablet or whatever next to your work computer (or just can't afford a second computer), then install your "work"-OS in a virtual machine, for god's sake. or get a real job, where you get paid for what you deliver, not for the time you spend playing solitaire.

I'd run something... (1)

chemindefer (707238) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305770)

That moved blocks of code around, backspaced, retyped the same string or added random strings, etc. in multiple terminals and app windows. Let it run 8 hours a day during normal hours.

Then use another computer for work.

I'd write the script on their time as well.

You're thinking about this wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305828)

You're looking at this from an employee perspective and not an HR perspective. HR's goal here is NOT to see if you are working but to gather evidence against you to fire you if the company so desires. They could not care one wit if you type away for the entire eight hours of the day, but once they have even a couple screen shots of you goofing off those go into the file. Come layoff time you suddenly find yourself out the door with a pink slip. But don't worry, you will serve as a warning to the other people in your same position.

Most productive == least visibly busy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305838)

I think my most productive time is when I'm thinking about and analyzing a problem, not when I'm actually typing it into the computer. This might be a great way to measure productivity for someone paid by the keystroke.

More invasive than the office? (1)

Tony Isaac (1301187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305866)

Not necessarily. Our company uses a system that takes snapshots several times a minute. It's never used except when there's already a problem with an employee. It is then used to document the actions of that employee, in order to provide legal cover once they are fired.

Different companies have different notions of how much, and how, to police the work that is done by employees and contractors. Some are better than others, but it's their money to safeguard. This does not seem like a problem to me. Personal equipment not used for work, however, is a different story.

Work done by bots? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305870)

Several commentators have mentioned that you might have a second computer nearby for the non-work stuff. But, what happens when you've programmed that computer to do your job for you? Is it still ethical to charge by the hour, when a computer is doing most of the work?

Taken a step further. A contracting firm is charging a client for 1000 heads, but there's only 100 real heads and 900 virtual people doing the work. As long as the quotas are being filled, is there a problem? (Side question. If you are being paid by the hour, but there is a quota to fill to keep your job, are you really being paid by the piece?)

Fair enough if... (1)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38305928)

It's fine and fair if:

  • There is full disclosure and consent
  • The computer in question with the monitoring software is property of the company

The employer lays out the terms, you accept the job or you don't, and once accepted then you and the employer do what you said you would do. If you bill per hour instead of per project, then every hour you bill has to be productive; that time belongs to the employer. They have a right to know whether they are being told the truth about how those hours they bought are being used, whether the contractor is doing illegal or likely-to-get-the-employer-sued things, and whether the contractor is telling the truth. In case any haven't noticed, there are a lot of people on the Internet who have a serious problem with telling the truth.

What I find amazing is that some commenters seem to think it's okay to surf porn on company time, or claim 8 hours' billing for 5 hours' work. Yeah, yeah, Slashdot on company time etc., but nobody is going to file a harassment suit for seeing yet another poorly-researched article summary painting tech workers as moral perfection on the screen, and once in a great while Slashdot is (vaguely) relevant to tech work. If I were told to stop reading Slashdot at work, I would. But as for people advocating that it's okay to claim more hours than you actually worked... that's fraud. No sympathy at all.

Work Computer != Personal Computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38305962)

It blows my mind that people get uptight over companies ensuring that their resources are used within their standards. Who bought the computer? Who's paying for maintenance on it? Who owns it at the end of the day?

That's right. Just like you can't strut nude through your office due to company policies, you can't use their equipment (heh heh) in ways they don't want it used. That is perfectly legit.

A more specific example is the abuse of "company cars" in the past. The company -can-, and should, dictate the conditions under which those can be used and penalize people who misuse(d) them.

Ironic (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306026)

I am reading this as I watch the movie Mad Max. This is kind of bitterly ironic because it is a sign of bad things to come! I am waiting for the apocalypse believers to come out of the wood work. This website is basically soliciting work at wages so ridiculously low it is sad. The wealthy 1% own everything and have left the remaining the 99% to fight for the scraps. This website is evident of it!

old news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38306114)

I am surprised this has only been known recently. Cerner (A kansas based healthcare software company) has installed such software on all their employees laptops around 2009. The software was hiding itself from the installed programs list but was listed as a windows service and also appeared as a running process. I just had the service disabled and it stopped running. I can't recall the software name but it seemed to be a noob solution. My immediate manager was happy I discovered it so he could stop browsing porn but his manager was not happy about me warning other engineers about the software. The software was pushed into all company laptops without notifying employees. I left that shit hole two months later.

The real problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38306138)

Is one of respect.

The company is showing you EXACTLY how little respect they have for you, your privacy, your job, the work you do, ect ect ect... its only about the bottom line. getting paid. and nothing more for them.
Now... Remember all that crap when you run into something that you can fix.. But 'isnt your job'. And don't fucking do it. Think like a company. It's not your problem. It won't make you anymore money. So fuckit. Not your problem.

The company will cut you zero slack at all. So return the favor. Put in your 8 hours or whatever and do EXACTLY what you're supposed to. And not one damm bit more.

They don't respect you and have zero loyality or trust in you. So why would you give any of those to the company? That'd be stupid. They wan't to treat you like a good little replaceable robot. So act like one. Do the scripted routine and fuck going above and beyond for the good of the company. If it won't make you one cent. Don't do it if you don't have to.

Companies expect employee loyality and respect. But damm few of them give it back.

Management Incompetence (1)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 2 years ago | (#38306256)

This is being done because of incompetent management, plain and simple. They figure gathering a bunch of metrics on an employee is good management. It's not good management.
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