Internet Surfing at the Workplace
Every enterprise CIO should have policies governing Web activity in the office.
Mon, June 12, 2000
CIO — RFG believes that enterprise Internet access has given businesses the abilities to be more competitive and improve business partner relationships, customer care and service. However, the Internet has also increased personal Web surfing at the workplace, saddling corporations with unproductive workers and potentially resulting in a decrease in corporate revenues.
In some cases, employee use of the Internet has raised legal issues that put businesses at risk. CIOs should assess working environments to determine if monitoring tools should be employed. Such tools can oversee employee Internet use and protect the company from inefficient workers and various legal concerns, without disturbing employee morale or corporate culture.
Allowing employees to surf freely on the Internet can lead to damaging consequences. In some cases, companies have been hit with sexual harassment lawsuits because of Internet viewing of sexually explicit material. CIOs should determine if violations of corporate policy are occurring, and if so, decide whether Internet filtering software is needed and deemed appropriate for the company and employee environment.
Distinguishing between personal and work-related websites is a difficult task as some sites are used for both purposes. Internet filtering software enables companies to block selected websites and monitor employee Internet surfing activity. CIOs should assess the site-blocking and site-tracking features of such tools, and determine which sites, if any, should be blocked in the best interest of the company and employees.
Many Internet filtering products provide daily updates to keep blocking lists current. However, filtering products are known to filter out legitimate content and to miss bad content. When evaluating the appropriate Internet filtering and blocking applications, CIOs should ensure that an application is sufficiently flexible and configurable to meet company-specific requirements, and that vendors offer solid support including regular updates.
Corporate executives and managers understand that employees will conduct personal activities at work on the Internet, whether taking a few minutes to check personal stock portfolios or booking plane tickets during lunch hour. Some companies concerned with employee productivity, clogged bandwidth and sexual harassment suits potentially leading to hostile work environments have implemented Internet filtering tools to address these and similar issues.
Internet filtering, originally used for parental control over Internet surfing by their children, has reached the corporate world. Companies are blocking access to sites related to auctions, drug and alcohol use, gambling and pornography. In many cases, Internet filtering applications are being used in companies that want to ensure that employees do not view pornographic or hate sites. Although this type of active viewing of pornography is not widespread throughout the enterprise, companies must act to ensure a good working environment is maintained.