September 12, 2009

Employers and Internet Monitoring — Some Points to Consider

Computer technology has led to some stunning advances in worker productivity, but that technology has also created many opportunities for wasting time. From chat rooms and instant messaging to social networking and online auctions, today’s workers have no shortage of distractions. Some companies have grown so concerned over this unauthorized internet usage that they have begun to implement strong policies restricting the personal use of email and internet resources.

Employers are using a number of different approaches to fight unauthorized use of the internet, instant messaging, email and other electronic resources. There are a number of monitoring software packages on the market designed to allow employers to track where their employees go on the internet and what they are doing when they are at their desks. Some of these packages restrict access to certain websites, much like parental control software. Other monitoring packages allow users unrestricted access to the web, but capture screen shots that can be emailed to a supervisor once or twice a day. These monitoring packages make it easy for employers to counsel workers who are spending too much time online, while helping to identify potential problems before they become too serious.

Other software monitoring solutions record all internet traffic and flag suspicious activity based on a number of user defined inputs. This allows employers to tailor their approach to the needs of the company, providing a much more user friendly package for busy managers. Other companies painstakingly analyze logs of internet activity looking for patterns of abuse. Much of this monitoring is automated, but sometimes workers actually look through the logs in search of suspicious activity.

With so much at stake it is no wonder so many companies are taking a hard line on personal use of the internet, email and other company resources. Not only does personal internet use represent a waste of time and productivity, but personal email use and the visiting of questionable websites could put the company in hot water legally. When implementing an internet usage policy companies need to be proactive, balancing the needs of their workers with the needs of the organization.

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