Simple surveillance technology has long been used by retailers to monitor many workplaces: Think of the grainy black and white video that sometimes winds up on the evening news when a convenience store is robbed. But theft is still a big problem, and often it comes from the other side of the counter: According to a recent post at the Atlantic, fast-food restaurants lose up to 7% of their sales to employee theft. Now, employers are fighting back with super-sophisticated surveillance technology that monitors employee actions right down to the keystroke. Get ready to have your boss monitor your every move and call you out over your exact behavior at 2:37 pm.


As tech reporter Alexis Madrigal explains, old-school video surveillance could take hours to review in order to spot a theft. For very small amount, or cases in which an employer only suspects something’s fishy, it just wasn’t worth it to review all that footage. But new technology means employers can match transaction data with particular video clips, and flag particular transactions that correlate with likely fraudulent activity. Big Brother is getting bigger.

The gas and convenience store chain Kum & Go (making teenagers giggle since 1959!) uses a surveillance system to figure out if employees are telling the truth when they report a driver filled up his gas tank and drove off without paying. After all, the employee could have just pocketed the cash and then reported it as a theft. The chain’s new surveillance system captures the employees’ every move. Sure enough, some of them are stealing cash.

Madrigal quotes a trade magazine called Connected World, which explains how Dunkin Donuts surveils its employees:

By integrating the POS front-of-house system with a loss-prevention system from March Networks, franchisees can search video of employees conducting order/sales transactions when they suspect theft. Managers can look upvideos based on specific search criteria, and then view the videos as well as the dynamic keystrokes [the employees entered]. “This is a very powerful tool to reduce theft in restaurants,” Sheehan explains. “We have seen savings between 2-13 percent of sales.”

As Madrigal sums it up, “if managers think someone is giving away free food or stealing from the till, every second of his or her workday can be reviewed for anomalies.” Technology has probably made your job easier than it would have been a generation ago. But it has also made your boss’s job easier.