Employee Internet Monitoring

Category: Privacy

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...

Employee Internet Monitoring

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 p**n 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...

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Most recent comments on "Employee Internet Monitoring"

Posted by:

Ravi Agrawal
06 Aug 2010

Quite true,

Rather than monitoring their internet usage, I would install a proxy server at the Gateway & specifically allow only those websites that the employees need access to & block ALL other sites.

Mail can be controlled by an internal mail server via which all outgoing / incoming communication can be monitored.

Also, a bit harsh but I would not allow any attachments to be moved to moved to and fro. If required, I would allow them only after a good virus scan.

Instant messaging between employees can be set up using IP messenger.

Another step though would be to disable / remove all USB ports & CD ROM drives (via Group policy) so that no one can access the internet via another medium like tethering a Cellphone.

But it does require a qualified person with good understanding / knowledge to implement such things.

What else do you need? You come to your workplace to work and not for entertainment.


Posted by:

23 Aug 2010

I would suggest people use FlashCrest iSpy to monitor employees. It was the best solution, for me anyway.

Posted by:

25 Aug 2010

Our store installed CryptaVault and abuse dropped like a stone. And a lot of people got fired, which was good riddence

Posted by:

26 Aug 2010

For a free and somewhat configurable blocking/filtering web-based solution, check out OPENDNS at www.opendns.com.

Posted by:

Bianca Jem
23 Nov 2010

On the part of the employer, I guess you wouldn't have much of a problem if your monitoring system is doing snapshots of your employee's screens to check on what they're doing, this is something that Time Doctor can do. You can get it on TimeDoctor.com
It would help if you let all employees know about the system installed too so they would know what's expected of them.

Posted by:

25 Mar 2011

We use Work Examiner internet monitoring (http://www.workexaminer.com) tool in the company. Works great to capture web abuses, time wastes, etc..

Posted by:

11 Apr 2011

At my office boss is using ActyMac DutyWatch.
Unfortunately he knews all about our work!

Posted by:

29 Apr 2011

We too got CryptaVault, but no-one got fired. We just started getting weekly emails from the system (not our managers or HR) about our internet use, which had the effect of making everyone think twice about surfing.

Posted by:

16 May 2011

In our company, we decided to monitor internet usage of our employees because we really need to know what they're doing. Because people these days really want to surf in most social networking sites which affects work performances to each of them. We don't want them to waste our their time to slack off.

Posted by:

18 Jan 2012

Nice article! I also think an employee monitoring software is a necessity for companies nowadays. Especially on those employees that work from home. It doesn't only monitor your employees' productivity, but it also makes it easier for accountants to calculate the exact amount of time they've worked on a week/month.
However, there are so many choices of online time tracking tools. You might think they will all be tracking time accurately but sadly, most of them are flawed. So, I suggest, you'd do some research first, read reviews, or even try it out for free (if it's available).
After finding the perfect software for your business, you have to let your staff understand why it is going to be installed. You have let them know that it is just a way to protect the company.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2012

In addition to my post, there's this article that I've recently bumped into that could give you more tips on finding the most suited software for you and your business.
You might find it interesting.

Posted by:

12 May 2012

if i charge my phone with a usb on my employer's computer can they access my phones info and history, or intercept communication while its plugged in. No file transfers took place and my phone is not synced with their computer.

EDITOR'S NOTE: No, they cannot intercept phone calls or text messages. But some phones, when USB connected, will attach the phone's SD card to the computer as a folder. Anything stored there might be accessible to other computers on the same network.

Posted by:

15 May 2012

I'll highly recommend lightlogger keylogger(http://hwsuite.com/keylogger), this software work great and easy to use. This Software captures all computer activity including sends messages and posts made on web pages, in emails, and on social networking sites. Keep track of all the web pages your employees visits.

Posted by:

05 Nov 2014

BrowseControl is a great Web Filtering Software for small businesses.

It's so easy to use. You can start blocking websites within minutes of installing the software.


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