3 Sneaky Ways Employers Invade Your Privacy

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

If it hasn’t become painfully obvious, we’re living in an incredibly open and public world. Privacy, or what remains of it, is in short supply. As we learned through the Edward Snowden revelations, everything you do or say through any kind of electronic communication is being saved and stored somewhere, for when someone might need it.

All that data is piling up, and it can be used against you. Not only your personal communications, but the places you’ve been, purchase history, library books you’ve checked out, credit reports — all of it can be accessed, and it’s become harder than ever to let bygones be bygones.

This is especially troubling in an age when employers — not just the government — are becoming increasingly ‘Big Brothery’. We see small examples of it all the time, while overlooking what our own managers and bosses could be doing to snoop on our own private lives. Social media and camera phones haven’t really helped us keep a lid on our embarrassing moments, or times when we lacked judgment, to be sure. But it’s important to be as vigilant as ever to protect your image — and privacy.

Here are three big ways in which employers are butting into our personal lives, which you may or may not have ever even considered.

1. Credit/tax form checks

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Employers, prior to extending an offer to prospective employees, are increasingly asking for additional background information — which includes tax forms and even diving into your credit report. That may be pretty off-putting, as it’s questionable as to why a business would want to see your credit report, but there are a number of things you should know that make it a bit less stressful. Most sensitive information can’t be seen, for example, and they have to have your permission to pull your report in the first place.

As for tax records, employers asking for W2 forms are likely looking to see what your salary history is, so they can use that knowledge to their advantage in negotiations. But they can also use it to discriminate against you, by seeing things like your marital and family status. Be wary.

2. Social media monitoring

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

This one is painfully obvious and is usually fueled by employees themselves. The point is, a lot of people are sharing their lives on the Internet. Too much of their lives, usually. While that in and of itself isn’t really a problem, these things can come back to bite you. If you post an inflammatory opinion on Facebook, or use a social media platform to attack another person, everyone can see it. Even hiring managers.

We see it over and over again: people getting fired, and/or publicly shamed for saying something stupid on a social media network, and having it blow up in their faces. Of course, many companies do have a vested interest in making sure that employees aren’t divulging trade secrets, or blowing the lid off of a new product or something. But there’s definitely a fine line, and you should be aware that your employer is keeping an eye on what you’re doing, as long as you’re willing to share it online.

3. Device Tracking

AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez

Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

That’s right, your company may be tracking your every move by utilizing the GPS features on your smartphone, especially if it’s a company-issued device. But you should have thought about that before calling in sick and heading to Vegas for a three-day weekend, right? It’s unsettling, but there are companies out there who are actually keeping tabs on their employees this way. The solution might be to just use your own personal devices, or BYOD — bring your own device.

They can also track company-issued computers as well, and we all know what happened when school districts remotely activated the web cams on school-owned laptops that students had brought home. So, how can you tell if you’re being tracked or monitored? The Wall Street Journal says you can take preventative measures by turning off the WiFi feature, disable location tracking, and by seeing what other apps may be tracking your activity — and disabling or deleting them.

Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: