Working Notes: Co-workers as government spies (heh), legality of employer surveillance tactics, and password protection advice

There’s a spy/surveillance/privacy theme running through these offerings:

WSJ Marketwatch on workers as government spies (just kidding)

In a delightfully tongue-in-cheek piece for the Wall Street Journal‘s MarketWatch column, Brett Arends quotes from disruptive tactics specified in a World War II-era U.S. intelligence manual for agents to identify 10 signs that your co-worker may be a government spy, with a mission to destroy productivity. For example:

  • “They love committee meetings.”
  • “They nitpick.”
  • “They delay everything with endless worries.”
  • “Mismanage.”

For each of the 10 signs, Arends quotes directly from the intelligence manual! It’s hilarious stuff, and the quotes really nail it. Hence Arends’s serious point: There is no justification for the maddening, crazy-making behaviors that undermine morale and productivity at work.

Workplace Fairness on surveillance at work

Recently Workplace Fairness updated its Q&A page on the legality of various potential surveillance practices at work, including monitoring of phone calls and e-mails and on-site videotaping. Here are some of the questions addressed:

  • “Can my employer videotape me?”
  • “Can my employer monitor my telephone calls?”
  • “Can my employer monitor my computer and e-mail activities?”

There are 11 questions in all. To access the page, you may have to click a quick online legal disclaimer.

Next Avenue on password protection

Here’s one for the do as I say, not as I do department: Betsy Mikel, blogging for Next Avenue, provides a very useful, detailed advice column on creating and storing secure online passwords. Here’s a piece of it:

There are some guidelines for creating a strong password as well as ways to remember all your new (or old) passwords. Online passwords should:

    • Contain at least eight characters, preferably more.
    • Be composed of a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (like * or $ or #).
    • Include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters.
    • Not be an actual word.
    • Not use your real name, username or personal information, like your birthday, license plate number or address.

Not too long ago, I wouldn’t have considered this a work-related concern. But even for online information sources related to my work, the number of password-protected sites has grown exponentially. I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard.

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