Boss’s Demands To Search Workers’ Phones Sparks Internet’s Fury

A recent post on Reddit’s recently popular “Antiwork” forum has grown into a discussion on how workers should handle employers who try to make them use their personal phones for work purposes.

The post claimed that the OP’s workplace had issued a new policy saying that workers had to submit their own, personal cellphones for regular searches because their employees use them for work-related purposes.

“Today during an HR meeting employees were told that since we use our phones for work related things (i.e. phone calls to other employees/managers/customers, texts, pictures, maps) All while being out in the field and not given a work phone. That our phones can be searched at anytime [sic],” the post reads. “I don’t think this is legal, I think they need a warrant or subpoena if they wanted anything personal from me.”

The answer to whether something like this is legal is somewhat complicated, but U.S. courts have ruled that employers cannot violate their workers’ right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, they have also ruled that companies can reduce this expectation by creating policies in writing which state that they can, in fact, search employee phones when they feel like it.

In spite of this pathetically insufficient worker protection against bosses invading their privacy, Antiwork members are encouraging people to fight back by refusing to submit to policies like this and instead demand that companies issue free work phones. Many companies do provide their workers with phones that are already paid for to be used exclusively for work purposes to eliminate the problems that come with having employees mix up their personal and work lives.

Of course, doing this costs capitalists money, so they often do anything they can to get around it.

Some Redditors say that their employers have created compromises by giving workers a stipend for the use of their phones for work. Others pointed out that there are multiple programs available that will create a secure container specifically for work-related apps. The company can access, search, and wipe anything within these parameters, but cannot access any other part of a worker’s phone, allowing them to maintain some level of privacy even if it’s not great workplace boundaries.

However, other commenters have said that their workplaces nearly ruined their personal phones by installing programs like this, likely because management didn’t know what they were doing.

For the most part, however, Antiwork users are advocating that, when possible, workers refuse to sign on to policies that require them to use their personal phones for work purposes, especially when the bosses are demanding that employees sign away their privacy rights.

The encroachment of work into people’s personal lives has been getting worse for many years, and if workers don’t stand up to management, it’s never going to stop until they have complete control over our lives.

And honestly the best and most helpful comment of all:

Lindsey Weedston

Lindsey is a Seattle area writer interested in all things society, including internet culture, politics, and mental health. Outside of the Daily Dot, her work can be found in publications such as The Mary Sue, Truthout, and YES! Magazine.