As the number of COVID-19 infections hits the million mark worldwide, people are being told to stay home, and companies and employers around the world are facing unique challenges and issues. CNN reports that more than 700,000 jobs were lost in the last month alone. Those lucky enough to still have employment have been asked to work remotely as businesses shut their doors to comply with the stay-at-home order issued by governor Gavin Newson. A large percentage of companies have come up with a strategy to move their employees to online companies such as Zoom, Microsoft and Google, which offer free programs that can be used for video conferencing meetings, audio conferencing and webinars. But there are concerns that these programs have security, privacy and harassment issues that could leave its growing audience at risk.
With schools closed and people across the country working from home, the use of video-chatting has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Teachers, executives, government officials and families have flocked to programs like Zoom, which have become vital for work and life during the pandemic. Although helpful, Zoom has also been met with controversy as trolls have also taken advantage of the program, sneaking their way into meetings, online gatherings and lectures, exposing security and privacy issues. According to NBC News, as teachers and professors move their lectures and other educational activities move to video-chatting tools, “Zoom-bombing” has become another form of harassment. A 14-year-old girl from a Modern Orthodox high school was attending online class when some boys “zoom-bombed” the system and began yelling anti-Semitic slurs. After receiving several reports, the FBI issued a warning that some users reported some of their calls have been hijacked by trolls who bombard them with racist attacks and pornographic images. After receiving multiple complaints, the founder of Zoom apologized to its user and promised to devote all of its engineering resources to fixing the privacy and security issues.
According to the Business Insider, companies have turned to surveillance software to make sure they can see that employees are getting work done while working from home. Digital surveillance software provides screen monitoring and productivity metrics, such as the number of emails sent, keeps track of how much time you’re spending browsing online and what websites you visit. Critics claim it’s susceptible to privacy concerns, especially if the software remains active after work hours. Some companies are turning to programs like Sneek, which stays on throughout the workday and features constantly-updating photos of workers taken through their laptop camera every one to five minutes. There have been concerns over employers being able to essentially spy on employees while they’re at home, but the company states the program is meant to create a connected office dynamic.
After the pandemic is over the workplace may never go back to being the same. Businesses may change policies and implement a remote workforce, and employees will have to develop new habits, such as keeping documentation of their work, tracking their emails and learning how to communicate via webcam with coworkers. Managers will have to normalize video-conferencing and video-chats, and companies such as Zoom will have to continue improving their technology and cybersecurity for the safety of its users.
Written by John Winer