Employee Internet Monitoring
Providing employees with Internet access at work is a necessity for many businesses. But employers must monitor employees' Internet use, and control it. Employee Internet monitoring and control is a touchy subject. Here's what you need to know...
Yes, The Boss is Watching
For many workers, Internet access is required in order to do their job. But there are several important reasons to monitor and control employees' Internet access. Productivity is a big one; researchers estimate that employees waste an average of about one hour a day online - on Facebook, checking sports scores, personal stock portfolios, and other time-wasters. They write personal emails on company time, and chat with family and friends. I'm sure you know people who seem to fritter away the entire day on the Web. That's not what they're being paid to do, and most people agree that employers have a right to stop it.
Arguments arise over a small minority of "essential" personal communications at the workplace: emails from babysitters asking where the kids' meds are, for instance. Just as most employers tolerate a reasonable amount of personal phone calls, most also ignore a reasonable amount of personal Internet communications. But even email can cause you big trouble.
A casual email to a friend or acquaintance containing "insider information" can violate SEC regulations, resulting in a fine for the company. It's even more serious when it's sent from a company-owned IP address. Opening a virus-laden email while at work could expose your company to serious security breaches. Some online activity can even land an employer in jail.
Kiddie porn is probably the last thing you'd expect any of your employees to download; but the most unlikely people appear in the news every day, doing exactly that. So employers need to block sexually oriented content from the office network.
Music is the most pirated commodity online. The recording industry ferociously sues everyone it finds downloading the latest hits, and the providers of their Internet access. So there's also a need to block peer-to-peer file sharing services such as Limewire, BitTorrent, and The Pirate Bay from the workplace.
Employee Internet monitoring software is available from vendors such as SurveillStar; WebWatcher; Spector Pro; Cyber Patrol; and the aptly named IAmBigBrother. Such software records what every computer on your business network connects to online; what each computer sends and receives; even every keystroke and mouse click an employee makes. This level of detail is necessary to document employee misconduct, but most likely nobody will ever look at it unless a problem arises.
Monitoring Or Controlling?
It would be pretty hard for most employees to justify the need to access Facebook, Macys.com or AddictingGames.com. That's why many employers block all social networking, shopping and online gaming sites on the company network.
To actually block the sending and receiving of certain types of data, or access to specific Web sites and other online resources, you need software that is much like the parental control programs used to keep children out of trouble online. Most monitoring software includes such control features.
Such software should provide a blacklist of Web destinations that employees cannot access from their workstations. Control software should also monitor email and other text-based transmissions for specified keywords and block material that contains them. One simple way to prevent downloading from peer-to-peer networks is to block the installation of P2P client programs on company computers. A network administrator can set users' privileges accordingly, or software can identify such programs and block their installation.
Employees may feel indignant or betrayed if they find out their Internet usage is being monitored without their knowledge. So it's important for employers to create and distribute to all employees an "acceptable use policy" disclosing any monitoring and control of their use of company assets such as the computers on their desks and Internet access.
Do you have something to say about employee Internet monitoring? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Aug 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Employee Internet Monitoring (Posted: 5 Aug 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved