Software

Should users have the presumption of privacy?


In our company computer manual, it's clearly stated that users should make no presumption of privacy when it comes to e-mail or any other data that might reside on their computers' hard drives. We don't have this policy to suggest we're going to snoop or monitor their computer use (something we -- or I -- don't do, by the way), but rather to let it be known that all data on a company computer is subject to be seen by another's eyes.

Accessing e-mail is the most obvious and common instance of one person looking through another's files. When a person is on vacation, for example, and a design project is well underway, one engineer might have good cause to look through another's e-mail to keep the project going or answer a client's questions. In the process, however, one never knows who might also happen across those e-mails from friends and family, or any number of other sources.

In my e-mail, for example, should someone have reason to look through it, he would surely see the newsletters from TechRepublic to which I subscribe, the weekly football picks with my brother, or any number of other private communications. There's nothing there, however, that I specifically wouldn't want another person to see, or nothing I wouldn't freely talk about with just about anyone.

Obviously, we don't have a policy against using company time or equipment for personal use, but we all know that it might not always be private. I suppose we treat such things in a similar manner to personal phone calls or idle chitchat around the proverbial water cooler. As long as deadlines are met, quality remains high, clients and customers are kept satisfied, and billings aren't needlessly affected, all such things are never even noticed. A personal e-mail isn't much different than a personal phone call. And bidding on an ebay auction that ends at three P.M. is different than running an ebay business during work hours. As long as it's not abused and doesn't interfere with the person's obligations, it's just part of corporate life in the 21st century.

When it comes to servicing or upgrading users' computers, their personal data is especially made vulnerable, so to speak, to another's prying eyes (namely mine). I sure don't go out of my way to make it known that I don't snoop, but I think everyone knows that I don't. In the normal course of importing old e-mails and transferring files from one computer to another, for example, someone in my position can't help but notice any number of personal files flying by, but that's about as far as it goes. Heck, I don't have time to look at pictures from my last family reunion. Why on earth would I care to look at someone else's?

Perhaps the biggest thing I do that might send the message that I neither snoop nor care what kind of personal data might reside on someone's computer is my quick willingness to let anyone else have mine for the day should theirs be experiencing some problems. If you trust people with your stuff, so to speak, they're probably more apt to trust you with theirs. Besides, if they want to snoop through my computer or e-mail, I couldn't care less - as long as they give me the credit if they use my weekly football picks to win their football pool!

98 comments
jedmundson
jedmundson

Privacy? You've Got to be kidding. Go to the grocery store and use your preferred customer card. Use your debit card to purchase something. Join some discussion group. All of these activities will enter some data about you into some database. You still thing that you're enjoying your privacy and no-one can find out about you? Google your full name. I did and found a copy of my resume. Fortunately, it's up-to-date. As an employee of a large outsourcing company at for a huge manufacturing company, I tell my clients that they should not send any e-mail that they don't want to see on the evening news.

Richard.Miranda
Richard.Miranda

My Father, and for that matter most of his family, worked for the phone company. They all had equipment that allowed them to "listen in" on phone calls. Namely the "Buttz" or "Buttinsky" as it was affectionately known. That phone thing that hung on a utility belt and had leads with alligator clips on the end. I even had one. Their mindset was tapping calls was simply to check the signal quality which was part of their job. They didn't divulge any private information nor did they seem particularly interested to do so. I've carried that professionalism over into my own career regarding personal data. I see the data sometimes but I don't pay attention to it's content. I usually don't even remember personal passwords from one day to the next. I feel that customer confidentiality is, and should be, an extension of your professional work ethic. Harmful or illegal information notwithstanding, of course. If I happen to notice it but I'm not looking for anything incriminating in the course of my day to day work.

lenwarren
lenwarren

My manual states that their is no expectation of privacy, and that all items are monitored. I actually had one woman who bithced because I was interfering with her candles business, which she was running from the receptionist computer, she realy went balistic when I deleted her spreasheets and contact lists, for her business. She is stealing time and assets from someone else now.

tecug
tecug

I remember from the old X-Files that Mulder always had the philosophy that "TRUST NO ONE" would keep you safe. This belief usually kept himself and Skully safe. But in the end I think it destroid him from within. So what are we really advised to do? I think that personal vigilance is what will protect us. Be always vigilant and suspect but also respectfull.

Joe_R
Joe_R

Consider this: the year is 2007, not 1907. Personally speaking, if an employer - any employer - starts to come across as though he/she/it owns me, it'll definitely be time for me to go. I provide a service and fill a need. It doesn't mean that an employer owns everything about me when I'm on the job. We both benefit equally. Who owes more to whom? Perhaps being beholden should be seen as a two-way street. An employer might provide certain equipment with which people perform their jobs, and the employer certainly owns that equipment, but does that mean an employer can eat the ham sandwich an employee puts in the company owned refrigerator? What's the difference between taking a phone call and receiving an email from a spouse or child? Would an employer balk at someone making a doctor appointment using the company phone? What about making an airline reservation using the company computer and Internet connection? In today's day and age, heavy-handedness and strict restrictions will not garner the best results from people. All employees should be treated with dignity and respect, or else their best performance will never be realized (not to mention, they may not stick around for long). As such, who cares if they use company equipment for personal use, as long as it doesn't interfere with the performance of their job and the successful completion of the task at hand? It just might be a better approach to create an atmosphere of trust and respect rather than strict rules and regulations; and the looming threat that big-brother is watching your every move does not make for the best work environment. If it should be against company policy to use any company equipment for any personal use, does that mean a person would be in violation if she made a personal grocery list on company letterhead using a company owned pencil? How about if she just typed it using the company owned software and then emailed it to her husband asking him to pick up on the way home? The notion that it's company-owned equipment, and therefore should be limited to company-only business, is one that simply won't stand up to scrutiny when examined at every level. Unless, of course, one believes that a company owns the employee as well. Or is it really 1907?

JCitizen
JCitizen

at most firms I worked for. Provided it was legal and wouldn't put the company in an embarrassing position. But that was the dividing line. When I work for a company I feel they do own my time while I am at work; I would feel the same way if I was the business owner. IF you stray too far of that it borders on theft. Am I stealing if I goof off/misbehave on the clock; yes of course.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

many differentiate, because breaks are usually "on the clock" while lunch is usually off.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

It does, however, own the tools you use. Do you take the company car to do your grocery shopping during work hours?

Joe_R
Joe_R

I'll use it to take the kids to school on the way to work.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]What's the difference between taking a phone call and receiving an email from a spouse or child?[/i] One requires immediate attention (unless you allow it to go to voicemail). Otherwise there is no difference. [i]Would an employer balk at someone making a doctor appointment using the company phone? What about making an airline reservation using the company computer and Internet connection? ..... If it should be against company policy to use any company equipment for any personal use, does that mean a person would be in violation if she made a personal grocery list on company letterhead using a company owned pencil? How about if she just typed it using the company owned software and then emailed it to her husband asking him to pick up on the way home?[/i] Some employers allow these things, others don't (mine does not, except in case of emergency). The ones who don't probably used to, but employees took advantage (give 'em an inch and they take a mile). One shouldn't "expect" these things though, unless they are specified in your contract or work rules... It's easy enough to simply ask.

Joe_R
Joe_R

I made the following comparisons, putting them in the form of questions: [i]What's the difference between taking a phone call and receiving an email from a spouse or child? Would an employer balk at someone making a doctor appointment using the company phone? What about making an airline reservation using the company computer and Internet connection? ..... If it should be against company policy to use any company equipment for any personal use, does that mean a person would be in violation if she made a personal grocery list on company letterhead using a company owned pencil? How about if she just typed it using the company owned software and then emailed it to her husband asking him to pick up on the way home?[/i] You answered those questions with a question of your own: [i]Do you take the company car to do your grocery shopping during work hours? [/i] We explored your tangent, but would you care to answer and address the original questions?

JCitizen
JCitizen

During the negotiating stage for a raise, or at any big policy meeting you can always stump for policy changes or more perks. Everyone I know does that, even city employess. Running interference for the employees under you could be a big morale booster if you gain perks for them. I would think this would apply even to tight security organizatins as a departments manager can set the tone; and the company should trust good managers in this light. I use the term perk loosely but your example of company car usage is a good one.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]I believe that they would share the liability in that scenario.[/i] Generally, a company is responsible for unintentional damages done by an employee in the course of performing his job duties, and generally are not responsible for damages intentionally done by an employee. For example, an employee misreads the torque setting on a bolt that's integral to holding a sign on the wall. The bolt breaks, the sign falls and hurts someone. The company is responsible. However if the same employee decides to beat a customer with the torque wrench, the company is probably not liable. Since "taking your kids to school" is probably not part of Joseph's job duties, I thought it a gray area and said "maybe". Of course, if he'd intentionally mowed down the crossing guard, the company is off the hook. [i]Obviously, intrusive monitoring isn't going to make an employee feel trusted or a part of the team. So a balance needs to be achieved. But that monitoring must be done and any business is well within their rights to employ some level of monitoring. The question will always be if the level is too high.[/i] I think if you have employees quitting in droves, because of it, it's probably too high :)

Tig2
Tig2

I believe that they would share the liability in that scenario. I think that to some extent, the issue here may be more how intrusive that monitoring is. Couple of months back a guy came to the Questions forum asking if he could be compelled to provide end user passwords to his boss (owner of the company). If I recall correctly, the poster was concerned about the ethics of the situation. While the poster was legally compelled to provide that information to the boss, we all suggested that he work with the boss to find a better way to monitor his employees than to log into their work pcs. Obviously, intrusive monitoring isn't going to make an employee feel trusted or a part of the team. So a balance needs to be achieved. But that monitoring must be done and any business is well within their rights to employ some level of monitoring. The question will always be if the level is too high.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

They know far better than I what works best for them. I think it's unreasonable, however, for an employee to expect that a company wouldn't or shouldn't monitor what is being done with their equipment... If for no other reason, from a liability standpoint. If Joseph were to, say, accidentally run over the crossing guard after dropping his kids off, is the company liable? Maybe not, but I don't think willful ignorance of where Joseph was driving their car is the valid defense. [edit spelling]

Tig2
Tig2

Is SOME. I don't want my FI or their associated business partners relaxing the rules. Some personal email is allowed, some non business web use is allowed but storing anything on ones HDD? Not generally. And everything on the network is open to audit. Does that mean that people never, say, print out something for personal use? Sure they do. But they are aware that all activity is subject to monitoring. As James said above, the nature of the business performed is generally the driver. Most companies recognise that the employee that shows up at 8:00 a.m. has a life that doesn't end when he walks in the building. And there is some allowance made for that. But even so, there are likely to be policies in place that advise that employee about monitoring standards. These days, an email sent from your work pc to a friend discussing a work related thing could end up in a demand for evidence. And the company would have no choice but to go to your email history and retrieve that email and hand it over. I honestly don't think that the company has a whole lot of choice in the monitoring they do. SOX, HIPPA, GLBA, and other regulations require monitoring at one level or another. What the company can do is to communicate to its employees that some personal use is tolerated. My partner and I frequently use email as a way of staying in touch through the day. He deletes any mail he receives from me and deletes his sent items. Not because the company would have an issue with it- if they did, we wouldn't do it. More because he only retains business related information on his computer. That particular company also practices "Clean Desk". Nothing may be left on your desk over night. It must be locked away. If you have a laptop, it must be locked in its dock or (preferred) locked in an overhead bin. If you step away from your desk, you must lock your computer. Failure to adhere to this could get you fired. Is this because the company doesn't value its employees? Nope. Regulations. At the end of the day, the driver for policy will be the regulations that must be satisfied in order to remain in business. And the regulations aren't softening any, they're getting tougher.

Joe_R
Joe_R

I would insist that my company car have a GPS tracking device, because, as an extremely important member of the team, I would certainly deserve a top of the line Cadillac, most of which have the OnStar navigation system as standard equipment. No self-respecting Cadillac driver would be caught dead without one! Joking aside, what we?re seeing is a wide range of company policies on such things. I?d never suggest that people should try to get around any established policies, but rather consider the merits of a company relaxing them in some cases. Having lax policies doesn?t have to be a bad thing, and oftentimes is better than the stricter alternatives. It all depends on the company and the people, I suppose. Not all companies are born equally, and there is no absolute, one policy fits all answer. Do you disagree that some companies might find merit in relaxing personal-use policies? Or are you suggesting that it?s always a bad thing in all cases for all companies?

TheVirtualOne
TheVirtualOne

I wouldn't care. because I'm obviously on call 24/7/365 and they wouldn't have given me the car if I wasn't supposed to be available whenever they wanted me to come in and force me to drive around with their advertising. but I'd also log my miles for personal use and counter the offset difference by filling the gas tank occasionally and holding back those receipts against what the company uses as a per mile average cost of use for the vehicle. duh! "ok mom! I'll play nice!"

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

if you knew the employer put a GPS transmitter in the car?

JamesRL
JamesRL

If I am your employer, I don't own you. You can walk anytime. I can also end the relationship. I do ask that you do the job you were hired for. I provide the tools. I don't ask that you shut down the rest of your life during the hours that I pay for. I do expect that you keep in mind that I need to protect the network from nasty viruses and protect the company from harm. That means I need to watch all the internet transactions and monitor emails. Sorry thats reality. You have a choice. You can live with that, and act accordingly, or you can chose not to use company assets for personal stuff. It really isn't that complicated. But do not ask me to compromise our network and our data so you can surf porn. Don't ask me to buy more bandwidth so you can run a stock ticker or listen to internet radio. Do not ask me to change my mail system to accomadate you. I'm sorry I bet you are a responsible employee, and most people are, but we have to work to fight the 1%er who absues the systems and makes it hard for everyone. I've seen us lose the email system for 2 days for 4000 people cause a few people ignored the warnings about opening certain email attachments. I've seen people collect porn on work computers. I've seen all kinds of things I wish I hadn't. Good companies will not invade your privacy without cause. But you don't have a right to absolute privacy. Not when someone else is paying the dime. Most companies I know require that you involve a third party. If I want a report on my staff to see what surfing they are doing I have to ask HR. They will ask why. Thats entirely fair. To date I haven't asked. I did have a contractor who I knew surfed alot. His work was also sloppy and late and thats why I terminated. His coworkers thought I was too soft. James James

cats
cats

We had a temp office admin, who after 6 months, left for permanent employment elsewhere. Before she left, she gave me her password and asked that I 'clean off' her computer. I did not ask for this password, she gave it to me unsolicited. I have to stress that I am not a snooper and think that doing so without just cause is wrong. When she was gone, I logged in and proceeded to clean off what I thought would be standard user junk. There were files on the desktop with xrated names, all the history and internet links were xxx. I opened one of the files on the desktop that did NOT have an x-rated name, because it did appear to be a work related document and I really didn't want to know about her private life. But sure enough - photos that made me cringe and text of chats that she was having, with strange men on a sex chat site. She copied and pasted everything into a Word doc. Aside from the raunchy chatting, she also disclosed her name, where she lived, her employer and address of the office. She dissed her job and her manager - whom she named. She even told these creepy guys (she had pics of them and of herself - ewww) all about her two little girls (she was a divorced mother of two). I was horrified! I did pass the info along to my director, who in turn wanted more info - save the files, links, obtain dates and times. Turned out, she was on these sites from the time she logged in to the time she logged off at the end of the day - ALL DAY, with the exception of her coffee breaks and lunch. She was always missing deadlines for assigned work and sloppy in what little she did. Sometimes, strange men would show up at the office to see her. Now we knew why. The director didn't want to pay the temp agency for the outstanding invoice, and further more, wanted to be reimbursed for past payments made for her services. My director was a retired high level law enforcement person and he was furious. Awkward as it was, I did contact the temp about what I found. I felt it important to tell her the dangers that she was putting herself in, not to mention her little girls. I told her how activity such as this, in her new place of employment, could seriously jeapordize her job. She first denied the activity, but then later said she went to those sites by accident. Or she would click on an innocent link and it kept taking her to the porno chat sites (and apparently created dialogue that was accurate about the details of her life, as well as took obsene pics of her?) The director took this up with HR and immediately our organization's lawyers became involved. The outcome? The money was not reimbursed (but the agency was told about what happened), and worse, I was put in the wrong by my employer and their lawyers because I invaded this temp's privacy. As for the temp - she was fired from her new job after only a couple of months, her ex-husband has custody of her little girls, and she is currently on social assistance. Was I in the wrong on this? I didn't think I was - had anything happened to her daughters, I would have felt a tremendous amount of guilt for not bringing this to somebody's attention.

cats
cats

I have worked in private sector, and government. I prefer the private sector, even though I am in government at the moment. Unions had their place at one time...during the industrial revolution. But now they only seem to reward the lazy and hinder the ambitious. Egalitarianism at its worse. There is absolutely no incentive to do more and be innovative. The only thing you get from being a good worker is - more work. Usually the work that the slackers are not doing. And no compensation. No credit (managers take that), nothing. If anything, it also makes you an object of suspicion by managers who fear that you could be a threat to them, so they make sure that these people are kept in the pits and buried in meaningless and mundane work, until they too become bitter, old civil servants - like the rest of the lot. But on the upside, the benefits and job security are nice.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I know what you mean; I've worked for unions but sometimes they just make things worse instead of better. At Eaton we had a lot of employees who were worthless, but the union wouldn't let the management fire them. Well now all their jobs went to someone else in Arkansas and Mexico. They got what they deserved; trouble is they hauled a lot of good people down with them.

cats
cats

We do have policies, lots of 'em. The worst thing about this situation was - this is a government organization, but it is also a unionized shop. You would think the rules would be stricter, but it is more about butt coverage than enforcing the rules.

JCitizen
JCitizen

have called child protective services for advice.. Before someone jumps me on this - it is the law. One of the organizations(juvenile services) I worked for used to drill this legal stuff into our heads. And they would always emphasize that any instance of/ or preception of child endangerment should be reported to any supervisor in our organization or child protective services at SRS. As for the rest of your story I would have thought the leadership would be in more trouble if it was supposedly a privacy issue, it is they who set policy and enforcement not IT. Or it should be that way. That organization should set an employees handbook detailing job description and responsibilities. I suspect they are just looking for a scape goat. I would get your CIO to at least set up a policy direction for your department so you have a guide to go by. This would also make him more liable if lawyers get involved, but too bad, it is his job. If you are the CIO then set your own SOP and attempt to clear in with the board, CEO, or whoever is above your position. If they don't play along I would sure do some squawking as that would be an unlivable position to be put under in my estimation. Good grief even the Army has a job description and an office SOP for every department!

Canuckster
Canuckster

Do your employees ever VPN into your network? Do you know that their PC's at home are clean? Maybe you should monitor all their personal email at home too. No? How about suppliers and investors that access your data?. Do you monittor the Board of Director's machines as well or do they get a free pass to play on porn sites? So much for protecting corporate data. Yes, I agree porn is bad. So is stealing. If its happening deal with it in an appropriate manner. Due diligence to prevent ugly images appearing on employee's screens includes a firewall and/or monitors that filter for that sort of thing. Reading other people's email only makes sense if you have a reason to do so. The fact that someone gets a medical test result that shows them positive for HIV is not corporate business. That is invasion of privacy. But then again, some administrators like to peer into other people's bedrooms.

JamesRL
JamesRL

First of all, no one VPNs into our network unless we provide the computer. I never said anything about monitoring someone's home email. Suppliers and investors do no directly access our network. Why would they need to? The Board of directors do not access our network. Communication with them is through email and we have ways to encrypt documents when needed. I don't condone random reading of emails -never said I did. But neither do I think there should be any expectation of privacy either. You want private email - use your ISP or any of the third parties out there. You want to send confidential info -don't do it on the company net. I don't have access to my staff's emails and I would not ask for it unless there was an emergency or malfeasance. You can bet it would be difficult to get and thats a good thing. I don't know any ethical doctor or in fact any doctor that would send the results of a test like that via email. You are just building straw dogs here. We also protect the privacy of our staff by never sending any details about salary, bonuses, benefits etc by email. Thats all done face to face. You seem to make me out as some enemy of privacy when I'm not. What you don't seem to get is that the employer does not have to allow any non-business use of their equipment and it is perfectly reasonable to expect that they do have the right to make the rules on how their assets are used, in ways designed to protect the network. James

TheVirtualOne
TheVirtualOne

(Nothing Personal) The web has revolutionized business. But it carries dangers that can damage your performance, reputation and bottom line. Your network can fall victim to web-borne viruses, spyware and other malware that can disrupt communications or steal data. Employee misuse of the web can erode your productivity, enable malware to access your network, and expose you to risks of regulatory non-compliance. I don't care what YOU do. My purpose in these forum is to tell you what I do and give you advise based on my expertise. I'm very particular. I address the issues. My company offers a 100% guarantee against web borne infection on the machines that we protect. We offer spam filtering, anti virus, image control, content control, encryption, archiving, and URL filtering. Web servers are not permitted on a LAN where a workstation is present. I contractually force the companies that I work with to follow my rules. If they don't like it, they can find a guy like you who is a little more passive and wants to be liked by everyone. Me? Not so much. We are resellers for the top manufacturers and service providers, But we don't ever mark up our discounted prices. We charge for only our time. I enjoy knowing that ALL my clients Internet can aggregate any combination of DS3, T1, E3, E1, DSL, wireless, and cable lines. We provide WAN fault tolerance utilizing all available paths, providing customers the confidence that their Wide Area Networks will remain up at all times regardless of router, ISP, line, or backbone failures. And we use compression technology that will send data across a WAN an average of 3x faster with reported speeds of up to 30x. We can provide load balancing up to 155Mbps. I enjoy the fact that the only way that a virus can get into one of my networks is if someone physically puts it there and that I am alerted immediately when the file is scanned. All software installations are done by IT. All CD/DVD material is burned in ISO format and stored on servers so that we can monitor our IT people when they do remote installations. We use all of the tools that both God and man has made. We think, we utilize weaknesses and we overcome barriers. We use tested freeware and open source solutions whenever possible because we want to make sure that we are utilizing every dollar of our clients hard earned money for protection against the inevitable. Loss of Data. We backup simply but effectively. We clone drives drives to provide bare metal restoration in minutes not hours or even days. We backup your data off site and guarantee retrieval. We use Virtual Machines to provide Remote Desktops to application specific machines whenever possible. We are notified when any user installs rouge programs and take action immediately. We have been using ClearCube blades for workstations before anyone else even knew what a blade was. We set up policy manuals for all of our clients and we document the entire network. All wires and connection points are labeled and color coded on both ends No one except members of the Admin group are allowed personal VPN access. Laptops are all bare bones, with RDP access. Bluetooth is not permitted as a data transfer protocol. Wireless network access is locked down by mac. no ssids are broadcast, encryption is mandatory. If third party access is required we scan the machine and issue access via USB. Any other use of usb devices are for admin tools only. All machines are set up and tested for WOL. Pass phrases of 13 characters or more are mandatory. Our clients include not-for-profit, government, retail, manufacturing and professional services. The employees of these organizations love us. Because we take our job seriously, and we insist on excellence. If you don't provide this level of excellence in your network "situation" you will find yourself either adapting to this line of thought or in the next couple of years you will be replaced by "newer ideas" by people who think ahead and outside the box that you put them in.

Joe_R
Joe_R

I agree with each and every one. How can that be tied-in with the reply I just left for TiggerTwo?

JamesRL
JamesRL

Much depends on where you are. I've worked for a firm that designed and built nuclear reactors. Some information from that company has found its way into foreign hands. I've worked for a fortune 100 company. Any information about sales (some of which were hundreds of millions of dollars) could be used for insider trading. At one place I worked someone was using the phones and email to run a side business. Smaller firms may be able to be more flexible. Larger firms have to protect themselves and their shareholders. The use of companty assets for personal use is a privelege, not a right. I'm ok with reasonable people making good choices. But how do you know who is reasonable? James

Tig2
Tig2

I agree with the theory that the employer doesn't own you. But the harsh reality is that many of us have looked at other job offerings and realized that our choices are limited. When we first started to lock down the desktop there was a great cry from end users who could no longer reach ESPN.com for the daily sports fix. They stayed, and realized that their home machines were better suited to that. I had to clear the pornography off of one users machine so that I could install a mission critical application. I reminded that user of the use policy and was screamed at very publicly for my effort. My bosses boss had to remind the user that the machine had been ENTRUSTED to him, not GIVEN to him. Todays regulations regarding audit and security lead us in the direction of regarding our work pc as a "Network Connectivity Device", something I have espoused for the last ten years. The odd personal email? Nothing major. But the end user needs to understand that it may be read by someone other than the recipient. The odd personal surfing of a site? May be acceptable under policy. User needs to understand the limits. It wasn't that long ago that Human Resources could turf you for being 1 minute late based on their time clocks. How is this much different? My pc lives at my house. My employer's pc lives at my job. If I need hubby to pick up a quart of milk on his way home, I can call him. I AM allowed that time.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

however management has deemed that misuse of the computer is worse that misuse of other business tools and that irks me. Employees have been reprimanded, fined, or suspended for non-work related browsing of as little as 3 hours in a month, but you can be on the phone 3 hours a day for a month with your sister-in-law talking about who's sleeping with who and no one does anything :(

Joe_R
Joe_R

Do you think the size and/or type of company has any bearing on how relaxed or strict such policies should be (or actually are in reality)? What about 25-50 people versus 500 or 2500? What about an office full of attorneys, architects, or engineers versus a huge department that does nothing but process telephone orders? (I suppose those are rhetorical questions, since the answers are pretty obvious -- at least they are to me.) But a less obvious question -- where's that fine line?

kkopp
kkopp

You said, "But a less obvious question -- where's that fine line?" In this company, the answers are: Is it interfering with your job? Is it consuming excessive or expensive resources? Is it violating any laws? Is it making your coworkers uncomfortable? If there is a yes to any of these, then you will be watched and the company computer you use will be examined. There's only one person in this company who can't be fired because he did something inappropriate. That is the owner.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

but for me everything I do is toward the end of keeping the network and the computers running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. I don't have the time to go looking for trouble. The things I do find are a secondary result of my doing something else... scanning for duplicate files... investigating why the free space on one of the servers took a sudden nosedive, etc. Most things are inadvertent... Our "My Documents" folders are by policy pointing to the user's W: drive. So if they, for example, put in a music CD and rip it, the files go to the network by default. I explain the situation to the user and life goes on. On the other hand if a user calls me and tells me they're getting a disk full error, I investigate, and find several hundred mp3s on their hard drive, yes, I'm going to tell someone, because that could not happen except through intentional violation of the policy they signed when the computer was placed on their desk and they were given a user account! [edit spelling]

TheVirtualOne
TheVirtualOne

the difference is that the people that you are talking about had better learn to respect you and what you do for them. If they don't then it's time to start thinking about why that is.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Are you kidding me? Who owns the computer? Discussion ... over.

jdclyde
jdclyde

a very similar syndrome as the "my office". Sometimes people need to be reminded that no, this is not "your" computer, nor is it "your" office. It is the company asset that you are allowed to use to do your job, for now...

JCitizen
JCitizen

dote on their office space like putting a rock garden in the corner and plastering family photos all over the place; you can see they let the "private space" syndrome creep in.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't care too much what they have on their local hard drive, as long as it isn't illegal. However, network storage areas are strictly business only. After each month-end archived backup, I search by extension for music, movies, and photos added to the network in the last 30 days. Any that aren't work related (and I'm pretty liberal with the definition) are deleted without warning.

jdclyde
jdclyde

is how many new tunes and free porn do you get before you delete this off the NETWORK storage? ;\

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't use digital music, so none of it benefits me. While I've found lots of vacation and kid photos, I've only found two porn .jpgs. Most disappointing, especially since I already had them :-)

JCitizen
JCitizen

Just to save them and I the embarrassment and firing thereof. I never liked being asked by a supervisor to crucify some employee; but I knew it was necessary too. Especially since it is the customer that is paying you ultimately and has the right to expect performance.

DaPearls
DaPearls

You should assume that your company CAN snoop. Whether or not they do in fact snoop is subjective. If they suspect that you are doing something nefarious like porn , installing illegal software or running a side-business, then they may snoop. Most times, the sheer number of workstations in an organization makes consistent "snooping" almost impossible.

Tig2
Tig2

Back in the late 90's when I was System Support, I continually reinforced the concept that end users were NOT using pcs- they were using Network Connectivity Devices. It's too easy to have the wrong expectations when you think in terms like "MY pc". The company owns it and therefore everything on it. Period. That one has (I think) been tested in court.

Tech Warrior
Tech Warrior

I like that lol, And you are very right I believe it did test out in court. But most companies in corporate world and I know in the government do make you sign papers saying you will not use it for certain things, or go two certain places. This I would believe also gives them just as much right to go through in files on a system, Alot of them even say that you are subject to monitoring. www.techwarrior.biz

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