It should go without saying that it’s none of your boss’s business what medications you take, let alone any aspect of your sex life. Yet it appears we have already skidded way down a slippery slope into an era when just about nothing is private—and, worse, bosses actually have good reason to want to poke around in employees’ private affairs.

Laura June of New York Magazine recently dissected a Wall Street Journal report on how employers are mining data related to their employees’ health. June notes with horror that among the information companies can seek are which employees stopped fulfilling birth control prescriptions or are investigating fertility treatments. Combine such data with a little demographic information and deploy a few algorithms and other math magic and companies can determine the likelihood that a worker is expecting.

It’s creepy to think of company executives culling their employees’ records to figure who might be pregnant. Yet it shouldn’t be surprising given what we know is standard operating procedure for companies seeking customers. I knew the second that I asked to calculate the due date for my last pregnancy that my internet experience would be filled with advertisements for formula, cord blood storage, and other baby-related products, and that the marketing gods would then track my pregnancy and my son’s babyhood to provide me with advertisements and outreach tailored to each life stage.

Today, Americans all know that, for better and for worse, companies are watching us because information about our personal lives has great value. doesn’t charge me for exploring their real estate listings, but it does alert scores of realtors, moving companies, furniture stores, and other vendors in the area where I’m searching about a potential client. This is how such informational websites make their money: Companies pay them to identify their prospects, which allows them to more efficiently target their outreach. While it may seem like an invasion of privacy, consumers also enjoy some real benefits from this system—if we are going to be hit with marketing anyway, better for the advertisements to be for something we actually might want.

Of course, it’s one thing for marketers to know from a woman’s first click on in the privacy of her own home that it’s time to hit her with ads for maternity clothes and life insurance. It’s very different for that woman’s boss to know. After all, the boss isn’t just going to happily hand her a brochure describing the company’s generous leave policy. Rather, employers almost inevitably start viewing employees who face pregnancies or other health-related issues differently. An unrelated sick day now could be viewed as evidence of the start of a complicated, work-disrupting pregnancy; managers will start looking months ahead at work schedules and start steering major responsibilities to other staffers in preparation for leave time or in case that employee quits entirely.

This is unfair. Employers could jump to inaccurate conclusions about employees’ circumstances or how they will handle life events, leaving workers with fewer options and less opportunity for advancement. Yet while it may be unfair, it’s also understandable why employers want this information. It’s the same reason they want data about potential customers: it affects the company’s bottom line. Employers shoulder real costs for benefits such as maternity leave or health related absences, both in hard costs for paid time off and higher health insurance costs, but also in workplace disruptions. Managers aren’t all just busybodies who begrudge their workers their personal lives. More likely, they feel they actually have a responsibility to carefully monitor their expected employment costs since it will impact business.

As our laws shift more responsibilities to businesses and require that employers pay more benefits, companies will have greater and greater interest in employees’ personal lives. Americans mostly hear complaints about how our country, unlike the rest of the developed world, lacks mandated paid maternity leave benefits. Yet the absence of such a mandate has some important benefits for women. A manager who knows the company will have to pay for a lengthy maternity leave or hold a job open for a year after a woman gives birth (as is often the case in Europe) is less likely to want to hire women in the first place, particularly for senior positions, or will want to pay women less because of these potential extra costs. And indeed that’s exactly what we see in practice in Europe, where women are far less likely than U.S. women to become managers, and economists find that women’s wages and employment options drop when so-called family-friendly benefits are introduced.

If society is going to ask businesses to cover more of the costs of employees’ personal lives, we really shouldn’t be surprised when they go snooping around to try find out what bills they should expect to pay. It may seem sleazy, but sadly, today, it’s also smart business.