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How to tackle this ethical issue as an administrator....

By sanjith2091 ·
A system administrator who is in charge of the technical support and smooth running of the system in an organisation has been told by a company Director that there are concerns about some members of staff using their work computers for non-work related activities, such as using the Internet for social networking and sending emails. They have also heard rumours that some people are downloading music to listen to whilst at their desks.
The Director wants to avoid being questioned at Board level, and asks the administrator to look into the matter without telling anyone. What could the system administrator do, and what are the ethical, legal and social issues to be considered?

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First check local laws and company policies - then see what's

by Deadly Ernest In reply to How to tackle this ethica ...

to be done.

As a general rule, where laws and policies allow, the company has the right to control what is on their computers and network, and what they're used for. So you can remove any unapproved files, like music etc. But better to send a memo out telling people to remove them before you do.

Best thing is to have a good gateway and use a proxy appliance. then set it up to deny access to the unapproved sites used for the social networking and music downloads. Best not to conduct a witch hunt, but to close and shut the barn door.

edit to add - if all you're doing is enforcing existing company policies, there is no ethical concerns raised at all. If no policy exists, then ethics requires you see policies are created, made known, then enforced after people have a reasonable time to comply with them.

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by sanjith2091 In reply to First check local laws an ...

Agreed but dont you think its kind of peeping into employees privacy???

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I don't know Sri Lankan expectations,

by CharlieSpencer In reply to reply

but in the US it has been established there is no expectation of privacy on a workplace computer. The policy where I work is that company computer resources are subject to examination by the IT department at any time. I specifically outline that to new employees.

Using a company computer to get personal e-mail is just like using a company car to drive to your personal post office box.

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The company computers and network are not the property of

by Deadly Ernest In reply to reply

the employees and they should have absolutely NO expectation of privacy of anything on a company computer as the company can turn up and move it at any time. It's not as if you're checking their home computer.

Think of it as a company car they use during the day, can they expect any privacy about things they leave lying around in the car, when any other employee has a the right to use the car as well? no they don't, same applies to all company assets.

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Investigate first

by santeewelding In reply to How to tackle this ethica ...

The ethic of your own statement about what the Director "wants".

Is it that? Are you competent to say what another wants? Or, was it that you were simply told of this want by the Director? And, why were you told this?

Not only, mayhap, are you being invited to intrigue, you readily deceive yourself into it.

In your place, all you can know, and truthfully testify to, is what you have been told to do. The rest can make of you a co-conspirator; the one who first gets thrown under the bus.

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Investigate and report?

by mafergus In reply to How to tackle this ethica ...

All other issues aside, the admin is only being asked to investigate what is going on. Knowing that these are company assets, there isn't an ethical issue if the admin does as is asked. Unless i am not reading enough into this, this is simply a request to help determine if there is a problem or not. After the information is collected and the severity is assesed, then policies may be put in place/enforced.

I do not see an ethical issue here.

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What if??

by sanjith2091 In reply to Investigate and report?

Since the director instructs that higher management / others should not be aware of this inspection dont you think he i mean the director might be using the info on what the employees have accessed and stuff to do something bad for the employees eg- if he is having some grudges with one employee with this info he might tarnish that employee's image etc etc

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Is Human Resources involved?

by CharlieSpencer In reply to What if??

Is there an HR department? We usually involve them in this sort of action in order to prevent conflicts like the one you describe.

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That is why most companies

by JamesRL In reply to What if??

Do this very openly. At my current and at some previsou employers, we talk about it at orientation, and employees have to sign a document acknowledging they have read and understood the policy.

It should never be used by one person. If I were writing a policy I would insist that HR approve every instance where an investigation takes place. I wouldn't want that Director spying on his boss for example.

As for tarnishing someone's reputation, the employees should realize that they are being monitored and govern themselves accordingly. There is no right to non buinsess browsing from work, and if an employee choses to go to questionable sites, they will live with the consequences.


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If he is your supervisor,

by TonytheTiger In reply to What if??

and what he is asking you to do is legal, his motives are not your concern.

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