One of the most common problems
that faces Internet active businesses is the usage of the Internet by
employees for purposes other than business. This subject takes many forms
and can be as simple as shopping for vacation airline tickets to blatant
visitation of websites that cater to potentially offensive material (adult).
Another very insulting activity to your company is the employee who feels
compelled to shop for a new job using your companies Internet connection,
e-mail account, and while they are on your timeclock!
In our experience, this problem
is most prevalent in businesses where employee's direct supervision is
not always there to observe the activities of employees. When this happens
it is not too uncommon to find people shopping on e-bay, checking their
free mail service personal e-mail, loading up company mailboxes with daily
jokes/political statements/pictures, visiting adult websites, and other
Computer support companies
make a small fortune correcting the actions of employees who install the
latest spyware gadget that tells them the weather in suburbia or synchronizes
the computers clock to an atomic clock somewhere. When these programs
are running on your computer they have the potential of interfering with
legitimate business programs.
Then we have the problem with
spam or junk e-mail where we can refinance every loan that exists every
eight seconds, purchase enough medication to build a bridge to the nearest
star, or see the latest nude publicity stunt by a waning celebrity. Lets
not forget the ever popular e-mail borne
virus as a company favorite also.
Despite the temptation, removing
the Internet from the office is not the answer. Establishing a company
policy concerning the use of company communications tools (Internet, e-mail,
postal mail, and telephone) is. The company needs to establish a policy,
monitor activity, and most importantly, be serious about actually enforcing
your company policy.
First off, is creating the
Next, what legal rights do
companies have monitoring employee communications? Is this a violation
of peoples privacy? Good question, and one that is a very hot topic of
debate. The consensus being, employees might not have much legal protection.
In 1986, Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA),
which basically gave employers the right to monitor electronic communications
"in the ordinary course of business."
Most companies view their office
computer and their network infrastructure as property of the employer
and I think they have a solid argument for such. Furthermore, the time
they are paying an employee is their time, too. For larger companies who
host their own mail systems, a recent survey of more than 700 companies
by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that almost
three quarters of the surveyed companies monitor their workers' use of
the Internet and check employee e-mail. According to the study, businesses
offering financial services such as banks, brokerage houses, insurance
firms and real estate companies are most likely to monitor their workers'
ECS provides hosting
plans that understand the needs of the small business and provides
the tools to enable the monitoring of company e-mail resources.
Monitoring is not just limited
to Internet and e-mail. As an employer, for the most part, you have every
right to monitor voice mail and phone calls, too. While some states require
informing the callers that a call might be monitored for quality control
issues, federal law does not require such notification. However, under
federal law, once an employer knows that a call is personal, any further
monitoring of such a call is prohibited. The employer also has every right
to prohibit the dialing of certain phone numbers or access to certain
Internet sites (the most common being pornography).
Establish a company policy,
inform employees about your policy, monitor activity, enforce the company