Working in California? Find out how your boss is tracking you

New privacy protections have arrived for workers in California


Employers collect an enormous amount of data from workers and are using new technologies to monitor us at work.

Here are some examples:

Teachers in West Virginia were “required to either pay a fee or participate in a workplace wellness program called ‘Healthy Tomorrows,’ which penalized members for not scoring ‘acceptable’ on a series of biometric measures.” They went on strike and got the program dropped.

“Freelancer, a platform for hiring web developers and designers, uses a technology called WorkSmart that takes screenshots of workers’ screens and then combines them with measures of app usage and keystrokes to come up with a measure of productivity.”

More than 100 employers reportedly use technology from a firm called HireVue during the interview process to “analyze their facial movements, word choice and speaking voice before ranking them against other applicants based on an automatically generated ‘employability’ score.”

Image credit: Alpha Stock Images — http://alphastockimages.com/
Image credit: Alpha Stock Images — http://alphastockimages.com/

There’s a broad range in terms of the type of data your boss might be gathering from you including GPS location, biometric identifiers, internet browsing or keystroke data, health and wellness data, audio or video surveillance, productivity data, customer reviews, social media activity, and more.

This data collection starts in the hiring process and is used by employers to evaluate work performance, discipline workers, assign work, conduct background checks, or set production targets.

As Coworker.org co-founder Michelle Miller wrote: “All of these companies own vast amounts of workplace data that enables them to control nearly every aspect of our working lives, from job search and hiring to performance reviews, productivity monitoring, behavioral analytics, job reviews, and career path.”

For workers, this constant monitoring and data collection can pose risks:

  • Inaccurate, misleading or incomplete data can be used in employer decision-making that impacts our lives at work;
  • Just like in the consumer arena, there are information security risks: the data collected about you could be breached. (It happens frequently: like library employees in Ohio who had their data breached in 2017 and 2019. Their personal information was used to create fraudulent bank accounts. Beyond just inconvenience, the dangers increase based on the sensitivity of the data and/or the vulnerability of the workers whose information gets leaked or stolen.);
  • The data collected is often fed into management decisions that could impact you in the workplace from establishing schedules, work speeds, and requirements to reducing your autonomy. An increasing number of scholars are raising concerns about how data-based decision making can also lead to workplace discrimination.

In California, a recent amendment to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) requires certain employers to provide workers with notice of what data they are collecting on them; how they are using it; and whom they share it with, by January 1st, 2020. This notification applies to job applicants, too.


While the law specifically protects people working in California, even if you work outside of that state, you might want to pay attention to the information being disclosed by employers. If your employer has revealed the kind of data they collect on employees in California, they might be collecting the same kind of data on you, too. The Washington Post reported: “Some companies are extending the disclosure privileges outside California, in part because of the difficulty of having a patchwork of policies.”

If you work in California, you may have been provided with a privacy policy notification through your employer’s website, recent paperwork, or even physical mail. If you have not received notice, or are not sure whether or not you have received notice, you may consider asking a supervisor.

Coworker.org is committed to helping ensure that employees are able to gather the information to which they’re entitled — and to better understand the often opaque employer policies and practices that impact their lives at work. Do you want to share information about data collection in your workplace? Or do you want to talk to a Coworker.org staff member about the issues in this post? FILL OUT THIS QUICK ONLINE FORM AND LET US KNOW!

Coworker.org is a global platform to advance change in the workplace. Our platform makes it easy for individuals or groups of employees to launch, join, and win campaigns to improve their jobs and workplaces. You can start your own campaign for changes you want to see in your workplace here at Coworker.org, or contact us at info@coworker.org if you would like to discuss a workplace issue with our team.