Back in March, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to ban homeworkers was a contentious debate topic, along with her use of VPN logs as justification.

But even Marissa Mayer could only peer so far. She could not review what her Yahoo! workers were up to at a task level. Now, for those who run virtual companies but crave more control, there's, a software company that tracks the amount of time contractors spend on specific projects and tasks -- but goes one step further, taking randomized screenshots as evidence. Paying subscribers can even track offline work.

Are you ready for your close-up? From Hubstaff's beta tutorial:AlgorithmTrack

We have an algorithm that tracks that activity level and it’s based on how often your contractor moves their mouse or types on the keyboard. A screenshot is taken in 10 minute intervals, it’s always taken at a random time in that 10 minute interval, and then it’s uploaded to our server in real-time so that you can see what’s going on with each of your contractors. You can click on each screen shot, and get a detailed view.

Is there a consensus that frequency of keystrokes and mouse-drags are proof of productivity? This kind of tracking ignores a few basic components and characteristics of all sorts of work. For example, planning/thinking stages may not require interaction with a computer. In jobs where brevity and directness are valued (such as software coding), fewer key-strokes may actually be preferable because it produces "cleaner" code -- free of band-aids and bypasses. More keystrokes may also be indicative of more mistakes. And there will be cheaters -- in this case, mouse-wigglers.

Reviewers of the software point out that a user's response probably depends solely on their role, whether manager or contractor. Contractors may feel micromanaged -- even mistrusted -- when they are asked to install the tracking software on their computer. But managers will probably enjoy the feeling of increased control. Hubstaff also suggests using the service if your clients require better tracking for invoicing purposes.

Watch the tutorial below and decide for yourself whether the software "goes too far" or whether it's simply a tool that can either be used or abused (on both sides of the contract relationship).

Tags: Technology, Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, Remote workforce, VPN,, Remote management, Hubstaff