Email's use in the job

Job. Employee. Electronic mail. Personal e-mail. WWW (World Wide Web). Internet. Messages. Software. Keyloggers

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Corporate E-Mail Monitoring

A. Presentation of the Issue:

Today, according to `The Wall Street Journal', a third of the world's largest companies monitor employee e-mail. This is because of the fear that company owners have about workers spending work time on personal e-mails. An issue that arises from these actions is that it is found by many to be a very abusive practice due to privacy rights of individuals. But on the other hand, thanks to these practices it has been discovered that there are indeed employees that abuse of company email by using it for non-productive ends and therefore lead to them losing their job. But although people do have the right for privacy, these rights disappear once the people are situated in their work space.

B. IT Background of the Issue:

E-mail is the form of sending messages in electronic form through electronic mediums and also the oldest. According to Wikipedia, it currently works as follows; first, the message is sent from the computer client through a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and to the local Internet Service Provider (ISP). Then the ISP looks for the domain of the destination through the internet through the same Domain Name Server (DNS) as for webpages. Then it finds the ISP address where the domain is and sends the message. Finaly the recipient retrieves the message from the ISP through the Post Office Protocol (POP3) to its terminal and reads the message. The technologies used for this purpose are various types of monitoring software that are mainly installed on every client computer of a company. A client computer is a terminal in a network which is connected to a server to share resources throughout the network. This software records practically everything the user is typing, from e-mails to instant messages to web-addresses to complete e-mails and word documents. Another name for these types of software is `keyloggers'. These keyloggers are software packages that records everything mentioned above by logging every key that the user types on the keyboard thus its name. Some of them have advanced features like sending a customized detailed report of the e-mails and other content logged by the keylogger to either a computer within the same network or through e-mail to the boss to decide if the content typed and viewed by the monitored user would be considered correct conduct in the workplace. This final report is usually sent in encrypted form and password protected to avoid security breaches. One of the trends of these monitoring technologies is to incorporate visual samples of the content shown on the monitor upon certain actions or lapses of time. The purpose of this is so the man in charge of looking at the monitored content has further proof of what the monitored employee was doing. Another trend is that now keyloggers can alert the boss when certain phrases are typed on the keyboard to have immediate notification of when employees break the code of conduct. So the boss or whoever is in charge of monitoring can take immediate action.

C. Impact of the Issue:

The impact of these practices is on the moral rights of each individual to have privacy. But these rights disappear when people go to work1. Even in the USA where people have the Bill of Rights, inside their workplace they are still legally vulnerable for their privacy to be withdrawn therefore some may consider this unfair and an abuse, specially if only the low rank employees are being monitored and not senior management1. But this shouldn't be necessary if the employees didn't misuse the internet on his work shift for personal reasons.

This is the most direct impact that non-monitored work conditions can have because then, the company would e paying him to do personal things instead of working. This causes a lot of costs to the company in time because workers are spending work time for other purposes and distracting their co-workers, and in money which is spent on bandwidth resources not used for work purposes. Additionally, studies show that workers do in fact misuse companies' resources and therefore, it is necessary to take these measures even if some people say it is not quite morally correct. An example of this was the case of 330 New Zealand police officers being under investigation for using the force's e-mail system to distribute pornographic material. In this case, a clear need for monitoring actions is shown because this type of scandals on a company like a local police force can really damage the image not only of the organization, but also of a whole city or country which is a very bad thing for society because it would make tourists and investors afraid of the city's security organisms and make them look for alternatives. This also affects the local citizens since it is them that have to live with doubtful security officers.

D. Solutions Arising From The Problem:

One solution for this problem is to have a strict code of conduct on internet usage within the organization and make the employees conscious that this is happening. This is because if it is found by these methods that there are still people that misuse the internet in their workplace, then there would be no choice than to sack those workers and continue monitoring everybody. But probably by making workers conscience that they are being monitored, they would not try to infringe the company's code of conduct and therefore the company doesn't risk loosing a good employee. But in fact, if it is shown that employees do abide the rules, then the company should consider lifting the monitoring activities and spending those resources in something more productive.

Another solution that would arise from this problem is to have somebody to personally monitor each worker of the company. The purpose of this is to give the feeling to employees that they are being watched over and therefore, avoid misusing the internet during work hours.

E. Selection of Sources:

  • The Wall Street Journal - “Monitoring of Workers Is Boss's Right but Why Not Include Top Brass?” by Jared Sandberg, May 18, 2005; Page B1

  • http://online.wsj.com/public/article/0,,SB111636541232736178-A3U67wAWDZxL3Lg5R9OWMNI_oGA_20060517,00.html?mod=mktw

  • E-mail, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email

  • Spectorsoft Inc. professional keylogger company. http://www.spectorcne.com

  • `330 police staff investigated over objectionable emails', The New Zealand Herald, 21/04/05
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=188&ObjectID=10121679

  • The Wall Street Journal - “Monitoring of Workers Is Boss's Right but Why Not Include Top Brass?” by Jared Sandberg, May 18, 2005; Page B1

    E-mail, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email

    Spectorsoft Inc. professional keylogger company. http://www.spectorcne.com

    `330 police staff investigated over objectionable emails', The New Zealand Herald, 21/04/05
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=188&ObjectID=10121679