Software in some FDA laptops tracks employees’ activities

A new software monitoring tool that can track and enforce acceptable-use policies and protect intellectual property and trade secrets hasn’t passed the acid test of some employees at the Food and Drug Administration, according to the online site AOL Government.

FDA officials reportedly installed SpectorSoft’s Spector 360 monitoring software on the laptop computers of an undisclosed number of FDA scientists and doctors, reportedly because the agency was concerned about unauthorized disclosures.

But in a lawsuit filed last week, the scientists contend that FDA secretly monitored their personal e-mail after they had warned Congress that the agency was approving medical devices they believed posed unacceptable risks to patients.


System would monitor feds for signs they're 'breaking bad'

Spector 360 is designed for business, education and government users with networked Mac and Windows computers. The software captures every activity, including snapshot videos of a user's computer screen. The activity data is automatically stored centrally for further auditing, according to the company website.

“Spector 360, which is designed for centralized employee monitoring, offers a high level view of the ongoing Internet and desktop activities of your employees as they use company computers both Mac and Windows,” the web site says. “The software features automated deployment, remote management tools and will record a wide range of activity including Email, Chat/IM, Web Surfing, Online Searches, Keystrokes and Programs used.”

Among the activities that Spector 360 allows administrators to discern are:

  • How are users communicating with customers and each other?
  • Are employees or contractors visiting inappropriate or dangerous websites?
  • Who is accessing, transferring, and printing sensitive IP?
  • Who is ignoring Acceptable Use Policies by posting information to Facebook on organization time?
  • Who is leaking confidential information or valuable trade secrets ... accidentally or for personal gain?
  • Which users are transferring data to removable media like USB drives, CDs, or DVDs?

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Reader Comments

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 Barbara Duck The OC

Having been on the other side of this with responsibility for IT systems and company computers, I tell everyone this is the "company" computer, yours is at home, so be aware you may be monitored. If someone were to be a whistle blower, use your own computer to be safe and the IT folks like it better that way too as we really don't like to employ and review such information either, but it goes with the territory and private industry does it and they have to when breaches occur someone has to be accountable and be checking on security. I never liked using this software but again we had the insider trading at the FDA too so don't forget that incident as an example.

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 Cowboy Joe

Hmm... Big Brother in Government ... imagine that.

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