UPDATE: Paranoia Sweeps GSK Sales Reps Over Management "Spyware" on Laptops

Last Updated Feb 4, 2010 7:05 PM EST

  • UPDATE: GSK denies it is remotely monitoring its sales reps' laptops. See comment below.
Some GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) drug sales reps are freaking out over their employer's move to install Fiberlink 360, a brand of remote access wireless internet software, on their work laptops. They believe the program helps managers observe how much work they're doing and when they're doing it. Others, however, are saying that it's just an innocent broadband access program to help reps log on to the web when they're on the road, and not GSK's version of Big Brother.

The debate started -- where else?! -- on Cafe Pharma, with this post:

For quite some time now there has been a rumor going around among managers that the company was going to install some sort of "system" to track reps movement in the field. I heard today from a source in IT that this is indeed true and the tracking system is contained in the "Fiberlink 360 software" which was a mandatory download on all rep computers. Fiberlink 360 was installed under the guise of "streamlining" internet connectivity (which it does) yet it also contains GPS-compatible tracking software (spyware).
This tracking software is similar to what many parents use to monitor our teens while they are on the internet. The tracking software installed on the computer can tell what time and with what frequency a rep is accessing certain programs.
Fiberlink 360 can be used to monitor usage, according to this InformationWeek report on Continental's adoption of the product:
With Fiberlink, Continental also can monitor usage...
But IW adds that usage-monitoring is to enable the company to switch off laptops that are hogging expensive bandwidth, not to keep an eye on errant workers. A GSK representative denied reps were being monitored:
GSK is using Fiberlink e360 to provide remote computer access for in-house and field employees alike. Previously, GSK users had to choose between two different tools for remote access. This single option is simpler and, based on employee feedback, more reliable. Nothing (location, time online, etc) is monitored at the individual user level.
Not all reps are buying the conspiracy theory. Says one:
Are you people complete dimwits or just paranoid schizophrenics? Fiberlink is not an "Eagle Eye" software program sent from the future. If you are working from 8:30 - 5, then you should have nothing to hide.
Perhaps. Fiberlink's own website offers a similar product called Maas360:
The MaaS360 Control Service gives you unprecedented monitoring and control of laptops "in the wild," even if they rarely ever connect to the corporate network.
Drug reps have historically been paranoid about what their bosses know about their work habits because they spend a huge amount of unmonitored time on the road. In the past, sales reps have often taken advantage of their independence by not working as hard as they needed to, according to Jamie Reidy's book Hard Sell. Reidy claims he could phone in to work even when he was on vacation when he worked as a rep at Pfizer.

Better play it safe, GSK-ers, when you're using the company machine. (GSK did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) See above.