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TikTok Is Tracking Return-to-Office Attendance With Surveillance Tool

  • TikTok is cracking down on its return-to-office policy with new employee surveillance tools.
  • The social app has implemented a new tool called MyRTO that monitors in-person office attendance.
  • MyRTO tracks badge swipes and asks staff to explain “deviations” from expected in-person attendance.

TikTok isn’t just tracking user locations anymore. Now, it has moved on to monitoring its employees’ whereabouts.

The New York Times reports the social media company has implemented a new internal software called MyRTO to track and enforce its strict return-to-office policy. MyRTO monitors badge swipes that employees make when entering the office and asks workers to explain “deviations” from anticipated in-person attendance, the outlet reported.

After implementing an in-person attendance policy last October requiring US-based employees to come to the office at least three times a week as coronavirus concerns subsided, the company threatened to fire workers whose home address didn’t match their assigned office address, Insider previously reported. 

TikTok has previously faced criticism and has been banned in several countries over its use of “Big Brother-type surveillance” after Forbes reported its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, planned to use the app to track Americans using GPS information gathered through the app. But this week, the company notified employees it was unveiling its new internal tracking software designed to “provide greater clarity and context to both employees and leaders regarding their RTO expectations and in-office schedules, and help foster more transparent communications,” a spokesperson for ByteDance told Insider.

Representatives for TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider.

Managers across industries are increasingly turning to productivity-monitoring software for remote and hybrid workers, keeping tabs on how long users are logged in while working from home and capturing random screenshots of workers’ screens. For those made to return to the office, some companies are implementing new attendance-tracking software and deploying sensors to measure how full offices are and determine when a person is sitting at their desk or using a conference room.

But while CEOs of big-name companies increasingly promote return-to-office policies as the best way of doing business — Elon Musk, for example, has gone so far as to call remote work “morally wrong” — employees at tech companies pushing such mandates have voiced their displeasure in the form of walk-outs and even quitting to preserve a perk workers view as equivalent to an 8% raise

“When you allow flexibility, it expands your talent pool,” Insider previously reported Prithwiraj Choudhury, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School and remote work expert, said.

“Whether the economy is contracting or expanding, the best workers always have outside options. And so I think if you as a company have a model that doesn’t give the best employees flexibility some of them — not every one of them, but some of them — will be poached by competitors.” 

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