Teamsters Accuse CN Rail Of Secretly Tracking Their Employees Movements Via Company Issued Tablets

This is one of those topics that I always thought would come up more often. CTV News is reporting that the Teamsters union is accusing CN Rail of tracking employees movements, even after hours via the tablets that CN Rail issues their employees and not disclosing that they were doing so:

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which is the union that represents 5,500 Canadian National railway employees, alleges CN has been monitoring the whereabouts of a train operator outside of work hours through a company-issued tablet.

“It’s spying, it’s wrong and it’s illegal in our view” according to Teamsters Canada’s director of public affairs Christopher Monette, who adds “on top of it being creepy, it’s downright dystopian. It’s something that shouldn’t be happening.” 

The union says they have reason to be concerned that a large number of CN Rail employees may have also had their location tracked by the company during their own personal time after work.Speaking to CTV National News, Monette says that CN “didn’t tell us this was going on and they didn’t seek consent from workers to use geolocation data” from their company issued devices and believes CN was trying to keep their tracking methods secret.

“We only found out about this by accident, through a disclosure process where the company was forced to disclose why they were disciplining a worker,” according to Monette.

Now CN Rail doesn’t want to comment on this. But frankly I am not surprised. Tablets and phones issued by companies are often what are called “managed” devices. Meaning that the devices are put into a type of software called Mobile Device Management software or MDM for short. This software allows a company to do a number of things. Get the status of the device, push out software updates, remote control the device for troubleshooting purposes, and most relevant to this story, track the device. Now a company may only decide to use this software to track a device if it is stolen. But I can see a scenario where a company may use this software to track a device at all times. Which if they disclose that up front, I guess that’s fine. But if they didn’t you get this situation.

Now if you have a company issued device and are afraid of being tracked, there are very low tech solutions to this:

Cyber security analyst and lawyer Ritesh Kotak believes employees who have a work phone, tablet or laptop should try and purchase their own personal devices to use off work hours.

“These high-tech problems have really low-tech solutions,” Kotak says.

He also says that he uses a tab to cover the camera on his work computer when he’s not on a video call. Kotak adds that, if possible, employees should turn their work devices onto airplane mode off work hours.

“It’s important to understand that information (from your devices) is being collected on a continuous basis by the employer, it’s probably being stored and there maybe third parties who have access to it.”

One thing to consider is that if you go this route, your company may complain at some point because the device isn’t on all the time. Another thing to consider is if you “BYOD” or bring your own device, and the company puts their MDM software on it, you could be in the same situation. So you may want to keep that in mind as well.

The bottom line is that if you use company property, or simply have their software installed on your own smartphone or computer, you should have no expectation of privacy. Ever. Unfortunate, but true.

One Response to “Teamsters Accuse CN Rail Of Secretly Tracking Their Employees Movements Via Company Issued Tablets”

  1. I don’t participate in employer BYOD programs and I lock away employer owned devices in a desk drawer before going home.

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