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If the laptop is a company owned asset, it is within their right to do so. Assume that they are. As stated by others, if you err on the side of caution, you will typically not get in trouble.
If it is your own device, but being used on a company network, refer to the Acceptable Use Policy. If they state that personal devices are allowed but it is their right to monitor usage, assume that they are. Refer above.
If it is your computer, and not on company networks or used during work hours, it would be a violation of your privacy for them to monitor your activity.
Regardless, always assume the NSA is! LOL
If the resource you are accessing is on the Internet, then there is an IP address associated with it.
The company can easily monitor incoming and outgoing traffic and thus every request from your PC
will be seen and the target resource (Google, Yahoo Email, Youtube ...) will be logged and you can not
control or even see those logs.
Lifehacker recently responded to a reader who wrote, "I'm concerned that I'm being monitored at work, but I'm not sure how to tell." Lifehacker agrees with you that employees "should always assume" they're being monitored at work.
As far as there being a way to tell, Lifehacker says you should look for certain third-party software..."usually referred to as remote control software or virtual network computing (VNC) software. First, the easy thing to do is to simply check in your Start Menu All Programs and check whether or not something like VNC, RealVNC, TightVNC, UltraVNC, LogMeIn, GoToMyPC, etc is installed. ...If any of those programs are installed, then someone can connect to your computer without you knowing it as long as the program is running in the background as a Windows service."
Two important thins you should consider to protect your privacy:
1- When not in your work hours or not in company´s matters, do not use their computers or network connections. Assume that all you do and see using them is monitored and examined and stored by company´s intelligence. If you must do anything you would not like someone else know about, use your own equipment with your own internet connection (3G for example...).
2- When not in use, disable computer´s camera and microphone. If you are as paranoic as I am, put a black tape over camera lens (do not let adhesive touch lens).
Finally, dont trust internet. It is like any public road or highway. Whatever is passing by may be observed and followed by any people who wants do that...
Don't just think of it as monitoring software on your machine. That you may be able to find, but that's only part of the picture. If you are on a network, admins can just use a packet sniffer like SilentRunner or NetVizor to see what web sites you are visiting, what emails you are sending, There is no way that I am aware of for you to detect this, as it is reading packets of data passing through the network, not directly off of your computer. This is probably pretty unlikely to be used in a very small office though. Of course if you are using company email, often all it takes is the admin password and all of your emails are open for review.
As for the stuff on your machine, you can try Malwarebytes, which will show some but not all monitoring software/keyloggers. Of course, your use of it in itself could give rise to an interesting discussion. The majority of businesses monitor, at least to some degree, so I would just go with your existing assumption that the all seeing eye is watching.