Lots of companies have Internet-usage policies, some even say they monitor Internet use. I always assumed that employers claimed they monitored usage as a scare tactic — because who has the resources to watch what employees are doing?
I was wrong. I recently heard from someone who was warned by their company that they were spending too much time visiting non-work related websites online at work. Yikes.
So I tried to find some more information about how many companies actually monitor Internet usage. Turns out, it’s a lot. Here are some of the highlights from a comprehensive study:
Employers are primarily concerned about inappropriate Web surfing, with 66% monitoring Internet connections. Fully 65% of companies use software to block connections to inappropriate Websites—a 27% increase since 2001 when AMA/ePolicy Institute first surveyed electronic monitoring and surveillance policies and procedures. Employers who block access to the Web are concerned about employees visiting adult sites with sexual, romantic, or pornographic content (96%); game sites (61%); social networking sites (50%); entertainment sites (40%); shopping/auction sites (27%); and sports sites (21%). In addition, companies use URL blocks to stop employees from visiting external blogs (18%).
Computer monitoring takes many forms, with 45% of employers tracking content, keystrokes, and time spent at the keyboard. Another 43% store and review computer files. In addition, 12% monitor the blogosphere to see what is being written about the company, and another 10% monitor social networking sites.
Of the 43% of companies that monitor e-mail, 73% use technology tools to automatically monitor e-mail and 40% assign an individual to manually read and review e-mail.
And another article adds:
45% of employers track content, keystrokes, and time spent at the keyboard; 43% store and review computer files.
Wow. Sixty-six percent of the companies surveyed actually monitor employees’ Internet activity. Not only that, but 43% of companies monitor e-mail — which consists, in some instances, of people manually reading and reviewing employees’ e-mails. And, employees are getting fired for what the monitoring reveals — the study reports that a quarter of employers have fired people for e-mail misuse, and a third for Internet misuse.
So what to do? First of all, don’t use your work e-mail as a personal account. Separate them. If you can’t do without checking your personal account throughout the day, consider getting a smartphone for that purpose. Second, limit how much time you spend browsing the Internet. I would bet that a small amount of personal Internet usage wouldn’t be a problem, but reloading Gawker every 15 minutes might raise a red flag. And of course, follow this advice for maintaining a blog without getting fired.
And by the way — whatever companies created the software that allows employers to automatically monitor usage: Thanks for that. Really.