Nationwide lobbying push for contractor monitoring software alarms state CIOs
Published: March 01, 2019
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State Chief Information Officers are pushing back against state legislation for monitoring software for government contract workers.
Across the countries, several state legislatures have introduced bills that would require government contractors to install monitoring software to ensure their required duties are being performed. Such legislation has appeared in at least 23 states, which in some form or another essentially would require firms doing business with the state to use software to verify hours billed for work are eligible charges.
This legislation has alarmed members of the National Association of Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), and the organization has taken the relatively unexpected step of releasing a statement opposing these bills, citing the risk to citizen’s privacy and compliance with federal laws. Some of these concerns come largely from a coordinated lobbying effort across the states by a firm called TransparentBusiness, whose flagship product is a program that monitors activity by capturing screenshots and keystrokes of computers it’s installed on.
The legislation has been met with criticism of how the software operates. According to Alabama’s Acting CIO Jim Purcell, this assumes that only interaction with a computer is billable time, and that good management of employees is actually the key to ensuring performance goals are met. CompTIA also has come out in opposition of the bill, saying that legitimate work not performed on computers would be overlooked. Many of the bills would require contractors to bear the cost of the software at no expense to the state, which could deter smaller firms that can’t afford the software from responding to government contracting opportunities.
The biggest issue, however, is over privacy. Given that the software takes screenshots periodically, it would be impossible for this to not capture at least some personal information. Additionally, there is concern over contractors who work with sensitive data, such as that for health care or law enforcement. In this case, taking regular screenshots would accumulate massive amounts of data with potentially sensitive information, which could run into trouble with federal privacy rules and cybersecurity issues.
At this point, it remains to be seen how the individual state legislatures handle this issue, but lobbying efforts will likely continue. Firms that do business with state government, or those that hope to, should continue to keep tabs on how this plays out among the states in the coming months as they push through their legislative sessions, as it may eventually have an effect on how states do business with vendors.