April, 2020

Employers Using Surveillance Software to
Track Remote Employees

A recent article noted that some employers, in efforts to keep track of quality and the productivity of their remote-working employees, are increasingly utilizing monitoring software. For example, Axos Financial Inc. told employees that it would, among other things, capture keystrokes, keep a record of websites visited, and frequently take screenshots of the employees’ monitors. A spokesman for Axos was quoted as saying that “the enhanced monitoring of at-home employees we implemented will ensure that those members of our workforce who work from home will continue” to meet requisite company standards.

Some of the software can notify an employer if an employee prints a client-list and also prints a resume, which might indicate that the employee is planning on leaving that particular employment and taking clients with him or her. Some employers require that the employees stay logged-in to a video-call all day, so that the employers can ensure that the employees are working and are available for questions. One software company reported that in recent weeks there has been a tripling in the requests for its surveillance products.

Source:    Polly Mosendz and Anders Melin, “Covid-19: Bosses panic-buy spy software to keep tabs on remote workers,” thestar.com, March 27, 2020:

IG Report Found Multiple Errors in
FISA Applications

As part of an ongoing audit of procedures involving applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISA” applications) for surveillance authority against U.S. persons, the Office of the Inspector General (“IG”) released a report in March 2020, which found numerous errors in the FBI’s application processes.

The March report followed-up on a December 2019 report that examined an initial FISA application and three renewals. The IG’s office found in that application and renewal requests “fundamental and serious errors” in the FBI’s factual accuracy review procedures. For example, the FBI is required, pursuant to FBI protocol, to maintain a “Woods File” that contains supporting documentation for each factual assertion made in a FISA application, as well as documentation that a handling agent had reviewed the file materials for accuracy and reliability. The Woods File requirement was established in 2001 and was designed to ensure that factual assertions in FISA applications are “scrupulously accurate.” Additionally, agents are required to re-verify the facts contained in the initial application each time a renewal of the authorization is sought.

As a result of the December 2019 findings, the IG’s office undertook a further audit and analyzed a sampling of 29 applications out of 700 filed in the five-year span from October 2014 to September 2019. The FBI provided the dataset to the IG. The IG’s audit focused on FBI compliance with the Woods File requirement and did not address the materiality of any factual errors that were found. Of the 29 files examined, 4 had no Woods File; of the remaining 25 files examined, the IG auditors found “errors and inadequately supported facts” in all 25.

The auditors found that, in all of those 25 files, there were facts unsupported by or uncorroborated by documentation in the Woods Files or facts that were inconsistent with the documentation in the Woods Files. The IG found an average of 20 issues per application; the issues ranged from 5 in one file to 65 in another.

Due to the lack of required documentation in the examined files, and the lack of verification and re-verification of asserted facts, the IG’s report concluded that “we do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy, or that the process is working as it was intended to help achieve the ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications.”

 Sources:  Tobias Hoonhout, “IG Horowitz Found ‘Apparent Errors or Inadequately Supported Facts’ in Every Single FBI FISA Application He Reviewed,” nationalreview.com, March 31, 2020:
Office of the Inspector General, “Management Advisory Memorandum for the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Regarding the Execution of Woods Procedures for Applications Filed with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Relating to U.S. Persons,” March, 2020:

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor