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Government employees fired for surfing porn at work

Nine D.C. city employees were fired for visiting an “egregious” number of pornographic Web sites in 2007 from their work computers.

Nine D.C. city employees were fired for visiting an “egregious” number of pornographic Web sites in 2007 from their work computers.

From PC World:

In addition, an unspecified number of individuals in 18 city agencies were sanctioned for violating city computer usage policies. The investigation is continuing and could result in further actions against those found in violation of the computer use policies, the statement said.

The investigation, which began Dec. 15, was triggered when an employee at the Office of Property Management complained about other employees using their government computers to browse for and download pornographic content from the Internet. After an initial investigation uncovered a large number of employees using their work computers to browse porn sites, the CTO's office expanded the investigation districtwide.

According to The Washington Post, it was estimated that three of the nine looked at inappropriate sexual images an average of 200 times per work day in 2007.

More from The Washington Post:

The investigation uncovered no evidence of employees looking at child porn, officials said. The nine employees being fired work for four agencies: property management, contracting and procurement, child and family services, and the attorney general's office. Fourteen other agencies had employees who had viewed porn more than 10 times per day, officials said.

Since 1999, the city has had a policy that bars employees from looking at porn, but there was little ability to enforce it, Kundra said. This month, Kundra's office installed a tougher version of WebSense software that blocks porn on all 30,000 city computers and will redirect employees from inappropriate sites. That software cost $142,000, Kundra said.

I can only imagine that the “Acceptable Use” Policy would have covered issues like surfing pornography and the like. In virtually every work environment I have ever been in, there were always rules about what was acceptable to do with the company’s computer and what wasn’t. It was always made known that violation of the policy would result in termination. However, since some of these employees are unionized, they have the right to appeal.

Is there an Acceptable Use Policy where you work? What would happen to you if you violated it?

39 comments
jdclyde
jdclyde

http://blog.wired.com/sex/2006/11/library_suspend.html There is the excuse that "poor people that can't afford the internet CAN'T surf at home". The stupid bleeding hearts seem to think "the poor" have some RIGHT to free porn, and the library is just the place to provide it. Thankfully, there have been changes to at least LIMIT that activity. As you can read, some seem to think that WE (the tax payers) should pay for a separate area with PC's and internet, so "the poor" can get their rocks off. Any time people start talking about mass groups like "the children" or "the poor", grab onto your wallet because they are coming to steal your money.

jdclyde
jdclyde

If it is acceptable and necessary to be able to view porn in a library, then why would it be any different for ANY government computer? Don't you also love how the conversation ALWAYS makes a point to include todays buzzword, childporn, whether it is involved or not, as if that was a major section of the porn industry instead of just a deviant subsection? For the record, I am against ANY system paid for with tax dollars to be used for porn, including library systems. Hypocrisy just really urks me something fierce.

dean.owen
dean.owen

Enforcing the policy is were the weakness is in most organizations. I worked for years at a college that had a clear and well written acceptable use policy - but they never enforced it. There was a view that the IT department had no right to enforce any restrictions on students or faculty or staff. When we reported any violations we were viewed as the bad guys and told to mind our own business. As a manager I took a lot of heat on these incidents when they were brought up. Eventually we didn't worry about it any more - unless there was a clear and viable security threat - we did nothing. Our best solution was Packeteer and vlans. At least with these tools we were able to protect legitimate business activities from the trash.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

I thought it was OK, since you didn't block the sites....

bfpower
bfpower

We do have an acceptable use policy. It includes the standard "up to and including termination," leaving management the option of doing everything or nothing based on the situation.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That explains why they were working for the government. They're going to have to do a lot better than that if they expect to cut it in private industry. That's barely 25 an hour.

Tig2
Tig2

I can only imagine that the ?Acceptable Use? Policy would have covered issues like surfing pornography and the like. In virtually every work environment I have ever been in, there were always rules about what was acceptable to do with the company?s computer and what wasn?t. It was always made known that violation of the policy would result in termination. However, since some of these employees are unionized, they have the right to appeal. Is there an Acceptable Use Policy where you work? What would happen to you if you violated it?

Absolutely
Absolutely

I was really hoping I had misunderstood, or you were exaggerating up there. D@mn, that's messed up.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]If it is acceptable and necessary to be able to view porn in a library, then why would it be any different for ANY government computer?[/i] if it is in that particular employee's job description to view porn on the job. [i]Don't you also love how the conversation ALWAYS makes a point to include todays buzzword, childporn, whether it is involved or not, as if that was a major section of the porn industry instead of just a deviant subsection?[/i] ... or use it to make the underlying issue look worse than other people who spend all day on ESPN.

abbenormul
abbenormul

I would lay a lot of the blame on the security and network admins for not blocking the websites (or at least whomever had responsibility for those duties). Employees don't need to have access to every website out there. My company blocks music and video download websites on up to offensive (porno) websites. If employees want to engage in those activities, they can do it at home.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

As usual, I think it's a matter of context. 9 people viewing images 200 times a day could be 9 people getting common pop-ups on their screens. One page could be loading dozens of images (thumbnails) and with 9 people, it doesn't take long to rack up 200 images. They are probably downloading torrent files and getting porn pops while doing so. I wonder if they are happier getting busted for porn rather than pi$$ing off the RIAA or MPAA? Too many questions, I wanna talk to these porn pirates and get thier scoop too.

squaressolutions
squaressolutions

You can use computer software to monitor web activity and block certain sites or servers. You can punish those employees who play online games on his or her computer at work. You can fire those employees who visit adult sites or chat room at work. Have you thought another way to stop employees doing improper use of computer? If you have not, it is important, that is to get your computer usage policies informed! If you get these policies well informed, employees should understand these policies, they should have guidelines for using computers, they should understand the consequence of improper use of computers. As this is a positive approach, you can reduce conflict between staff and managers or employees and employers, you can make the workforce more productive.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Now working in a small office for a national distributor, we have no policy at all. Just as with any other company I have worked with, there is an unspoken policy though. It is simple common sense, respect and courtesy to not surf porn during work hours. Whether it is acceptable computer use or not, surfing that said 200 images a day (as cited in teh article) would take up time and that is time I am being paid to perform work duties. So while in an all male office, where they reaally don't care what I look at, it is simply not done. I don't think surfing porn is a real offense, as noted it was not child pornography or some other illicit website, but it is still something an adult should be forced to browse on his/her own time and on their own machine. Once again, I feel it boils down to people not accepting personal responsibility. Just because there is or isn't a rule in place, should not determine whether you should or shouldn't surf porn a work. People are always seeking written rules and signs these days. Ex. A kid who hops a fence jumps in a public pool late at night and drowns, is usually followed by parents looking at the pool owners or city to have a fence raised or a sign put up as if it is not the kids own fault. Surfing gaming sites would be just as inappropriate in my view. Though I do broswe personal sites and TR etc. while at work, it is within reason. I have a lot of responsibilities and am being paid to perform, not surf. How can a country remain a strong, independant force when the citizens expect it to operate is if it were a socialist state?

seanferd
seanferd

I don't understand why simply being unproductive for any reason, including surfing any non-relevant sites, is not a punishable offense in some places. As far as appealing to unions goes, the unions that defend this cr@p are just giving themselves a bad rep. No pun intended.

bfpower
bfpower

We use Websense as well. It's a great system in most respects. A little pricey but good.

alex.a
alex.a

The policy is meaningless if there is an exempt class against whom it is not enforced. At my old firm, partners (it was a law firm) could do as they pleased without fear of retribution, even though the employee handbook clearly stated that all policies would be equally enforced against all classes of employees. Everyone else had to follow the policy.

JamesRL
JamesRL

And in all cases, porn is firing. Maybe not on the first offense, but on the second. As a manager, I could not claim ignorance. We teach it during orientation. We make you read it and sign it as part of the work start up process. You do not get internet access till you sign. James

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

Simple. I would get fired. It amazes me how weak willed people can be. Can't they just wait until they go home and do that rubbish?

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

When I was hired on in March 2006, there were no acceptable use policies for employees or for students in our training classes. There was also no security policy or action plan and no disaster recovery or off-site archival. They have been in business since 1984 and just never got around to doing it. Since I have been here, I have written our acceptable use for employees and a separate one for students to sign when they arrive. I also have security policies and action plans. I am currently working on the disaster recovery. It is almost there. A lot of work and good experience for someone working professionally with computers for a little over 5 years and still in school. Hopefully all of that will look good for a management position soon.

jdclyde
jdclyde

they find a swimsuit calendar pic and say "he had [i]porn[/i] on his work computer"

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]I would lay a lot of the blame on the security and network admins for not blocking[/i] Change the scenario to an employee using a company phone to call phone sex lines, or a company car to pick up prostitutes (I think the latter actually happened recently). Who would you blame then? Sorry, this is not IT's fault. You can only block what you know about or what is brought to your attention. I would be more inclined to ask the person's supervisor if he knew what his employee was doing on company time. We wouldn't have as many of these problems if IT would quit dictating to companies and if supervisors and managers actually supervised and managed.

Bizzo
Bizzo

"surfing porn ... something an adult should be forced to browse on his/her own time and on their own machine." Does that mean it's compulsory? :-)

jdclyde
jdclyde

any worse than it already is. When they fight to get the jobs back for people under the influence while working, they show they are scum. When they fight to get the job back for a UAW "worker" who is caught sleeping in the bathroom, they show the standards of the union and their membership. The way the UAW sold out the future workers just so they could keep their own piece of the pie, shows what low lifes they are. THEY get to continue to be overpaid zombies, but all new hires make less than half of what they do? It shows what the jobs are REALLY worth if they can and will be done for less than half, and the existing autoworkers in the UAW are the reason that you can't get as much car for the money if you buy American. Then there is the hypocritical "buy union" crap they always push, as they themselves go to walmart for their shopping. What they MEAN is buy OUR union product and screw everyone else. The WORST jobs I have ever had were union shops, and I got more crap from the old timers in the union than I EVER did from management. working too fast/hard and that was a bad thing. slow down......

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I live in a "right to work state" and as such we do not have or participate in unions, unless stipulations are made and appeals are made through local government channels. I personaly feel unions have outlived their usefulness. They exist to keep "Joe Whatshisname" who does at work and makes 75K a year even though he isn't very specialized and has no higher education...which in turn drives our cost of production up and leads people to buy imported goods because they are cheaper in the end. Instead, if Joe Whatshisname wants more money, he should educate himself and quit relying on the union. Back to the original topic...shouldn't the pr0n be filtered out by a net appliance at that level, thus eliminating this problem?

Gh0stMaker
Gh0stMaker

www.cymphonix.com - I've implemented a few of these and the built in reporting is phenominal along with the other combo features along with content filtering. They also have a free 30 day try and buy evaluation program.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

The person who is responsible for reporting such activity also has the ability to exclude certain computers from showing up in the report, and the stupid upper management doesn't know any better. (of course, you can't report these things, or you'll find yourself fired the next time you forget to use your turn signal when you pull into the parking lot!)

jdclyde
jdclyde

is a good thing. Being the network/firewall guy also helps.... B-)

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

is a valuable IT resource that allows my employees to stay abreast of industry happenings and techniques, and fosters more capable and more productive employees." (our firewall blocks "*.com.com" by default. The above was sent by my supervisor to the firewall gods as the reason to whitelist it :) )

JamesRL
JamesRL

Has TR on a white list, even if the main filtering goes down I can get to TR. I've fired someone for conducting a side business using company resources (email/phone). Have never fired anyone for porn, though I know other managers who issued warnings. I still remember 10 years ago, when my boss discovered I was using Hotmail at work, he didn't know what it was.... James

Shellbot
Shellbot

are chatting on TR.. tee hee..

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

the guy in the next cubicle is running his private side-business on his :)

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

They work in central office and make policies that are probably practical for their office, which contains 1,000 people in three buildings within a mile of each other who use computers for the largest part of their job duties, and 50 technicians to implement the policies, but not so practical.... in fact a nightmare where there are 5,000 people who spend the biggest part of their daily workday away from the computer, the ratios of techs to users is 5 to 10 times lower, and the computers are widely geographically spaced (I cover 8 counties myself). And some other bone-head moves... We're ordered to upgrade our Securedoc to the latest version on (here) 40 laptops (the ONLY purpose of this upgrade is to prevent a lockup when you insert an encrypted thumb drive into an encrypted computer's USB port), when (A.) the problem will never affect us, since our people don't use thumb drives, and (B.) we're abandoning Securedoc in April for another system. Of course, to perform these upgrades, the users have to hook up the laptop to the network, log in, and wait for it to be pushed down. BUT WAIT! two weeks ago they had us go through all the buildings and unplug from the switch any network jacks that were currently not in use!!!! [b]Arrrghh![/b]

jdclyde
jdclyde

It is where the IT Nazi forgets WHY they have a job in the first place. To make it so the user can get THEIR job done, period.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

It's usually not so hard to simply walk to your employee's office to see what he's doing. ... I still stand by my last statement. Very often, the IT tail is wagging the company dog. For example, it is totally insane to demand that mechanics and clerks to enter data into the computer, but burden them with things like monthly password changes with onerous complexity requirements. (and different systems have different requirements! Windows is at least 8 characters, 3 of 4 types, remember last 24, and expire in 90 days. The mainframe is exactly 8 characters, at least 2 letters, no two adjacent characters the same, at least 1 number and at least one special character, upper case not allowed, and first and last must be a letter. We have password requirements for our thumb drives, 3 of 4 types, at least 16 characters, but never expire. And laptop and field computer encryption, 3 of 4, no memory, at least 8 characters, but expires on the first Friday of every month.) And we actually have people who do work... and sometimes they'll go one or two months without logging in to their computer... so what does IT demand? Automatically disable accounts after 30 days! (and of course, they've forgotten all their passwords as well!) Most people aren't computer people! They're simply trying to do their jobs, of which using a computer is an occasional part. IT seems to not give a damn about how it is affecting work flow in a lot of cases. Their attitude seems to be "like it or lump it."

jdclyde
jdclyde

The problem is IT ALLOWING "managers" to try to use the technology to manage and control the employees instead of them actually doing THEIR jobs. If someone is spending a lot of time surfing porn and the boss doesn't notice, the boss should be fired as well. The other problem is unfortunate name combinations that get caught in the filters. buildersexchange (builders exchange) is one such we have had to deal with, because the two words put together make SEX. Technology and filters are not meant to replace management.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

yeah, no doubt! Most men would be well pleased with that rule. "Sorry honey, I can't help with the dishes. I am falling behind on my porn surfing and don't want to have to spend the weekend getting caught up." One day I'll actually read what I type before submitting it....nah, I can't see myself doing that.

jdclyde
jdclyde

twist my arm, why don't you..... ]:)

Gh0stMaker
Gh0stMaker

Yes, companies should have a security gateway to block unproductive sites etc. It protects the company and their employees.

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