CAN I GET A LITTLE PRIVACY? Lawmakers Propose Workplace Privacy Bill

July 21, 2000 ( - Lawmakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum got together to introduce a workplace privacy bill in both the House of Representatives and Senate Thursday. The bill would require companies to tell employees if their computer, Internet or telephone usage is monitored.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) in the Senate and Reps. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and Charles Canady (R-Fl.), would not force employers to change their surveillance practices, and it would not require notification each time employees monitored.

But employees could sue for up to $20,000 if they discover they are being watched without their knowledge.

The American Management Association reports that nearly 80% of large US firms monitor employee communications on the job, twice the number in 1997 according to Reuters.

Senator Schumer said “We’re not saying, ‘abolish this practice,’ we’re just saying employees have a right to know when they’re being watched.”

Barr and Canady are planning to question FBI officials next week about the agency’s use of Internet surveillance system Carnivore. The system is used to monitor public electronic mail traffic going to and from Internet service providers.