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Is 'net use at work a right?

By dead_radish in Op-Ed
Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 04:18:21 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Among others, F-secure and Trend Micro are suggesting that unrestricted access to web and email at work might not being a good thing. People are immediately up in arms on yahoo, that other site, and elsewhere.

But I have to ask K5 readers - is it really our right?

Maybe I'm old and bitter. Maybe I've spent too much time on the admin side, and not enough on the employee side.

But I don't think employees have the right to free and unrestricted access to web/mail/news/what have you.

I think it's a good idea for a company to allow employees to surf the web, mainly because of the resources out there (software downloads, news and updates, virus warnings, etc), but also because, frankly, it makes them happier, and that's good for business.

But where's the line? Most people I asked about this seem to think that their company had an obligation to provide them with a fat pipe, an unrestricted connection, and no monitoring. Any attempt to restrict their access (via .exe blocking, web page restriction, message size limits, monitoring or any such measures) was seen as vile and unacceptable.

Maybe it's me. But I see the ability to surf k5 at work to be a fringe benefit. I might not take a job somewhere I couldn't do it. I might. But I don't feel any employer should be required to allow me access. I understand their feelings that it might kill productivity.

But the main point of the article was that allowing unrestricted access leads to viruses, and it leads to lawsuits. And I'd add that it leads to loss of company property (in terms of internal information and software). There's a balance, I think. Restrict .exe and .asp from email. Block/monitor web surfing for excessive use, or adult sites. Don't lock it down. But shrink access.

This view is apparently anathema to the online community as a whole. Like I said - maybe my old and bitter admin ways have biased me.

But doesn't the company have a right to restrict the resources as it sees fit, and to want you to do a wee bit of work during they day?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


How much of your work day is spent on recreational 'net use?
o 0-20% 34%
o 20-40% 12%
o 40-60% 12%
o 60-80% 5%
o Work? I thought they just gave me a computer and a connection? 15%
o I remember work. Ah, me. 19%

Votes: 108
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Yahoo
o suggesting
o Also by dead_radish

Display: Sort:
Is 'net use at work a right? | 57 comments (51 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Duh, No (4.36 / 11) (#1)
by thecabinet on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 12:44:49 PM EST

Of course not. If you want to use a computer for your personal business, use your personal computer. Damn whiners.

But (3.50 / 2) (#6)
by davidduncanscott on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 12:56:42 PM EST

it is a personal computer. That's what "PC" stands for, and who am I to argue with IBM? :)

[ Parent ]
But but (none / 0) (#16)
by miller on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:12:47 PM EST

It's not your personal computer

It's too bad I don't take drugs, I think it would be even better. -- Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]
It's from.. (none / 0) (#17)
by inerte on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:15:04 PM EST

My online persona, a little voice in my head whispering "Code baaaaaad, reply K5 gooood".

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
[ Parent ]

Unless (3.66 / 3) (#2)
by tiamat on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 12:48:47 PM EST

you're job is one where surfing is relevant to your work; or you do a job were minor distractions are usefull and necessary as a stress relievor.
Other than that no.
The example I like is reading the paper. You read the newspaper on your break, it your boss wouldn't want you reading the NYTimes at your desk then why should you read K5 at your desk?

It depends... (4.00 / 4) (#4)
by President Steve Elvis America on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 12:54:05 PM EST

Right now I am on my lunch break as I post this and I am eating at my desk. Does that mean I am violating company policy? Perhaps, but since I am on my lunch break they don't care. If I were not eating lunch, and had a deadline of something in one hour that wasn't finished yet, they would be angry. I also could understand them being angry if I were breaking laws or downloading/uploading huge files, or making company resources available to outsiders (as in running a web server for something non-business related.)

I think it should be handled like phones. The company can say that you're not supposed to use phones for personal use, but overlook it as long as it doesn't become excessive.


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America

A line to draw (3.75 / 4) (#5)
by inerte on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 12:54:06 PM EST

It's something close to impossible. How do you define what sites to block, and their infinite clones? You could restrict access to www.jokes.com, but there millions of web pages with similar text.

Also, while it might seem a fantastic idea to increase security blocking .exe, I happen to download a lot of useful software and use them for my works tasks.

So we would have to say, "This one can download exe, this one can't". Basically, you will go back to people's competency.

Pretty much like the idea that a good programmer is the one that writes many lines of code, saying what I can or cannot do at work is silly. I can browse the web for 60% of my time at the office, and what if I am more productive than the ones that do not?

Would you block my access? I guess not.

So it all comes to the basics of management. You have a problem, you kill the problem, not the tools that help people to make the problem worse.

Blocking someone from browsing the internet is a temporay solution. The employe will keep being a bad one, unless you change the way (s)he thinks.

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.

I quite agree. (4.00 / 2) (#42)
by static on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 06:03:24 PM EST

At least two people I have worked for have pointed out that using the 'net at work is quite alright, so long as my work doesn't suffer, and (of course) I don't view "inappropriate" things whilst at work. Remember, too, that the definition of "inappropriate" differs quite markedly according to job function and managerial position. For instance, a former manager made the point that if viewing Xena web sites (yes, that's the example he made) made a positive contribution to my work morale, he would sanction that. On a more pragmatic note, IT Security analysts would probably be justified in looking at cracker sites, but few others in an organisation would.


[ Parent ]

Ability (none / 0) (#47)
by sgp on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 03:03:12 AM EST

I can browse the web for 60% of my time at the office, and what if I am more productive than the ones that do not?

But what if you're paid twice what they're paid? Should you not be twice as productive?

There are 10 types of people in the world:
Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

[ Parent ]

Of course they suggest that. (5.00 / 4) (#7)
by Hong Kong Phooey on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 12:58:14 PM EST

THey want to sell monitoring and anti-virus software.

But (none / 0) (#12)
by inerte on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:05:53 PM EST

Would not restrict net access makes your company a smaller target for anti-virus software? Since you won't run certain (dangerous) softwares.

I agree with the network guys, though.

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
[ Parent ]

Of course not (4.50 / 4) (#8)
by quartz on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 12:58:34 PM EST

Last time I checked, the owner of the equipment (i.e., the employer) gets to decide how it's used. So there will be some employers who won't let their staff surf the web, and some who will. Therefore, people who don't care about surfing the web will probably work for the former, while those who do will choose to work for the latter, and everyone will be happy. Isn't capitalism wonderful?

Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and fuck 'em even if they can.
Short answer: Yes, it's company time and property. (5.00 / 2) (#9)
by dram on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 12:59:07 PM EST

Long answer:
While companies can restrict the use of their 'fat pipe' and their computers and their employees time, it's better if they allow (mostly) unrestricted access to the internet. This will, hopefully, make it easier for the company to get employees to put in overtime.

In theory, if I'm at work, and I can multitask, doing some personal things, some work related things, I will have more free time to put into work. This may not compute right away, but think of it this way. Let's say the personal things that I am doing is responding to emails from friends and family, sending out xmas or vacation pictures. Maybe I pay a few bills and post a few comments. If I do all of this while I'm also working on job related stuff I wont be completely unproductive, I will just be less productive. But on the other side of the coin, I will have more free time in my evening and weekend. I won't have to pay bills or try to email those pictures over my slow 56k modem. With this extra free time I would be more willing to take work home or stay late.

So there are some real reasons why it may be a good idea to let employees free reign over the internet. However, excessive use should be checked. If an employee spends half their day read and responding to posts on K5, that is unacceptable and should be stopped.


either give it or don't give it... (3.50 / 2) (#10)
by dazzle on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 12:59:23 PM EST

The curious thing is when companies allow 'net access but then spend alot of time trying to restrict that access. Either give the access or don't give it. What annoys me is the semblance of access - eg Yes, you can have access to the internet but you can't do this, that and the other.

the internet: a global network of small minded people

It depends on the job, certainly. (none / 0) (#11)
by seebs on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:04:34 PM EST

For my work, net use is actually fairly useful. I browse for a bit when I need to take a break from typing, and I do a lot of research.

That, and I probably do as much work outside of hours as I do browsing in hours... :)

entitlement (4.25 / 4) (#14)
by glenn1you0 on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:09:37 PM EST

Once again, people's sense of entitlement is getting mixed up with their rights. The phone analogy is a good one. You've proabably had cart blanche on the phone for so long it feels like a right. Companies have let employees make personal calls on the company dime for two reasons: First, employee morale is better when the employees feel free to act as they need, and the cost is generally minimal. Secondly, and probably more importantly, choosing not to enforce such policies until a certain threshold is reached is much cheaper. They can't afford to monitor everyone's calls. If the phone bill begins to excede their budget, or phone use begins to noticably impact productivity, then they'll look to stronger policies and enforcement. The same goes for web use. If you check the weather, or lunch specials online from work everyday, they are not likely to care. It doesn't impact productivity. If you browse k5 all day on the other hand.... Also, web useage is much cheaper to monitor, and so they are more likely to do so. Further, legitimate fear of viruses, etc is going to force their hand. At the very least, they need firewall. And firewalls come with a lot of features beyond plain ole firewalling. The once-bitten-twice-shy syndrom is going to make those that have been hit, look even closer at how they were hit, and what they can do to prevent it ( dumping outlook might be a good start ).

Reasonable use (4.33 / 3) (#15)
by LQ on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:10:00 PM EST

Who defines reasonable use? I work at my PC all day and often surf while running long builds etc, maybe 5% of my day. I guess I could otherwise just stare out of the window.
I correspond with friends by e-mail but if I couldn't, I'd have to use the phone. This way, neither of us gets interrupted in realtime.
I'm a professional who's not going to waste (much) of my employer's time by slacking off on the net. The real problem is the master/slave relationship where the boss does not trust the wage-slaves to give 100% of their time.

A right...to be set by the company.. explicitely (4.33 / 3) (#18)
by vefoxus on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:16:54 PM EST

Clearly, there is no debate here: net access is definitely not a "right", as the company pays for the computers and the bandwidth.

Whether it is a good thing to have unlimited access is a different debate: in many internet/computing companies it will probably be positive, but again it's the boss choice. At least it may be a good thing to filter a number of sites (porn...): I have a friend who works in a company whose bandwidth use fell by more than 50% after they introduced this filtering..

What, however, should be a right is that employees must be informed explicitely about the policy of net' access in their company, and also if the traffic is monitored (email especially).

Take my company as an example (4.71 / 7) (#19)
by MFS on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:34:05 PM EST

There is no way feasible to restrict our web access.

Now, I'm sure people could instantly say I'm full of it, but allow me to explain.

Yes, things could be taken away, but it would undo years of changing how we do business. That would be incredibly stupid.

We use e-mail to gather quick information, be it from sources, clients, or whatnot. We use the web to search and gather information for various purposes. We access the internet for some search functions that we subscribe to as a company, and each person uses this for different purposes. We've established that our preferred method of communications is via e-mail.

I could continue, but I think the point is made.

We've been moving in this direction for years. It would be foolish to revert at this stage of the game.

Nope, not me. I must be someone else.

Restricting Net Access (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by Armaphine on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 08:39:14 AM EST

There is no way feasible to restrict our web access.
Like hell.

I know at my company, we have a content filter in place for web access. Aside from an occasional oddly-phrased restriction (I'm thinking in particular of one month were Slashdot was listed as an "alternative lifestyle" website. Yeah, I thought it was pretty funny too.) this filtering has not impacted anyone trying to do legit work. And while again, granted, I have gotten bounced off a couple of websites that were of dubious use to the company, they have never impacted legitimate use of the internet.

E-Mail filtering would probably be harder to do, or at least do well. I'm personally thinking of the "Hot ASS" bit we had running around. (A system with the unfortunate acronym of A.S.S. was, well, exceeding temperature specs. Ah, it's occasionally the little joys that make the job worthwhile... hearing an engineer have to tell the execs about his hot ASS problem...) But it would certainly cut back on how many of the little e-mail jokes, chain letters, and desktop eye candy progs were floating around the network.

Question authority. Don't ask why, just do it.
[ Parent ]

I was not referring to filtering (none / 0) (#55)
by MFS on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 05:29:28 PM EST

we have filtering in place as well

I was referring to taking it away outright.

Nope, not me. I must be someone else.
[ Parent ]

This is why I love k5 (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by dead_radish on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:35:57 PM EST

I already feel better. Over ... somewhere else, the prevailing comment was "Dammit, those nazis better not try to touch my 'net access! Maybe I'll just stop thinking when I'm at home, then!" Granted, I phrased this article a bit differently, but it's nice to see a well-thought discussion.
I knew I shoulda brought a crossbow. -- Largo. www.megatokyo.com
Depends on the job (4.71 / 7) (#22)
by jayhawk88 on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:40:16 PM EST

I work as a computer tech. If my boss was to tell me they were restricting my Net access in a major way, I'd tell them they were crazy. I use it every day, throughout the day, for reasons that run the gauntlet from driver downloads to just general tech-chat on this and other sites.

But does Mary, the receptionist in accounting need the same access? Probably not. In fact, she might use her access to download a whole lot of nasty programs like WebShots, Felix the Cat, CometCursor, and quite possibly worse.

It's a decision that really has to be left up to the company. Obviously locking the entire place down behind iron gates is going to increase security and decrease problems, but at the cost of employee morale and productivity.

Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web? -- John Ashcroft
Even SA's restricted... (4.66 / 3) (#30)
by interrupt on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 02:32:34 PM EST

At, lets just say, "a company I am intimately familiar with", the boss of some of the Systems Administrators has been taking major flack from the Security Engineering department over the "hacker tools" they have on their drives. Apparently the Security Engineering group bought a long list of file names related to "hacking" to facilitate their monitoring of the users. Turns out that even something as simple as an SSH client is deemed a "hacking tool" if you are not part of the SecEng team.

SecEng's answer is that there should be no software installed on anyone's machine other than through the corporate packaging system. This may be true, but the Desktop Engineering group doesn't have the time to "package" a single executable which is freely available.

It breaks down to a communications problem, but since SecEng has complete autonomy, there's really nothing that anyone can do... The SecEng cowboy's are out playing FBI, real work is impaired, and the morale there is bottoming out.

BTW - for reference purposes, we are talking about an international company with greater than ten thousand employees.

[ Parent ]

That's just wrong. (none / 0) (#53)
by static on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:14:57 PM EST

Both Security and Systems Admin need more than the usual level of control and access, albeit for different reasons. Besides, the two groups should work together: their sphere of influence overlaps to some extent.


[ Parent ]

Someone who "gets" it... (4.66 / 3) (#32)
by pla on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 02:44:37 PM EST

Thank you. A number of comments on this topic so far have made a lot of sense, but you have summed it up very nicely - it depends on what a given employee does.

With my job (firmware engineer), I access literally *dozens* of on-line specs per day, download reference driver code, send email attachments to (and receive them from) various hardware manufacturers (ie, "why does this code snippet, which clearly frobulates register 6, not leave register 6 frobulated?"). Locking down my net and email access would cripple my productivity.

I think this results from what someone else said, basically that management has no clue what the typical employee does all day. I tend to believe (perhaps naively) that management has a purpose, that they understand certain aspects of running a company that totally elude me. But, they need to recognize that this works both ways... If they completely understood the jobs of all the people working under them, they wouldn't need all those people.

If they want to ban certain sites, I don't have a problem with that. If they catch me visiting www.hotsquishyanimalsex.com for six hours a day, by all means fire me. But *don't* require me to wait 48 hours for "permission" to visit IBM's Alphaworks or Intel's developer site. That not only hurts the company by making me take *far* longer to do my job, but makes *me* look bad for the same reason.

I do, however, disagree that locking down a company will automatically increase security. In my experience, the more secure a person feels, the sloppier they get. If a corporate IT deparment thinks nothing can go wrong, they'll most likely spend every weekend working overtime trying to clean up all the totally unprotected PCs that get hit by a virii brought in accidentally on a floppy, or by people savy enough to get through the firewall, or any number of alternative routes of infection/compromise.

Remember, the people implementing these lockdowns also regularly send out emails warning users that MP3s and images can contain virii... (And boy do they get pissed when you reply-to-all that no, in fact, they cannot, at least not in any infectious sense <G>)

[ Parent ]
MP3's and images with viruses (4.50 / 2) (#40)
by jayhawk88 on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 05:36:35 PM EST

Just to defend the brethren a little, you have to look at it from an end-users standpoint. Luser Larry doesn't grasp the difference between an actualy image file (picture.jpg), and a file with one of those funky "double" MS Outlook extensions (picture.jpg.vbs), so easier to just tell them all attachments could contain a virus.

Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web? -- John Ashcroft
[ Parent ]
Lock down (none / 0) (#54)
by Mitheral on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 06:08:18 PM EST

Read someplace: As a programmer told me long ago "Security is good here, I can't get to anything I don't want to." And that's how it should be.

[ Parent ]
Company access (4.50 / 2) (#23)
by hovil on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:41:48 PM EST

I think our company allows unrestriced, unmonitored net access because:

  • it is useful for research
  • it keeps the staff happy
  • restricting access would require resources of its own
  • those restrictions would likely be defeated via various means anyway

    I don't have a beef with companies that restrict access, just ones that don't have a detailed policy on the subject, or don't stick to that policy.

  • It may not be a right, but (4.00 / 2) (#24)
    by Cro Magnon on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 01:51:48 PM EST

    I still think it should be allowed. Though I do quite a bit of browsing, I also get my work done. I post when things are slow, or in between other stuff. Before I had web access, I still "wasted" as much or more time when things were slow. Pr0n, of course, should be prohibited.
    Information wants to be beer.
    seems to be a trend (4.33 / 3) (#25)
    by paf0 on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 02:03:17 PM EST

    At my current contract they have plans to lock down every site. If one wants access to a site they have to apply. The only problem with this is that we do R&D for medical devices and software that talks to those devices. Their defense is that the people at corporate headquarters already have this system in place and they dont have a problem with it. The problem is that in large corporations management is too far removed from what their employees actually do. All really I want to do is read k5 and check my email. Occasionally I have to look stuff up about that java ripoff called .NET, not allowing me to run a search on google will stop me from doing my job.
    The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do. --B. F. Skinner
    icq 3505006
    It's not a right, but... (4.87 / 8) (#26)
    by SvnLyrBrto on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 02:03:36 PM EST

    A healthy employer hires good employees, and TRUSTS them.

    Face it, our industry is not like others. We don't clock in at 9, work eight hours on an assembley line, and clock out at 5. Our profession is a creative one, and you don't just run your brain eight hours a day.

    I've been stuck on a problem, gone home to sleep on it, and had the solution pop into my head while in bed. I'd then jump on my own computer, ssh into work, and knock out the code while it was fresh in my head. If work can have some of MY personal time, why should it be an issue if I check my personal mail, or read a bit of K5 while I'm sitting at the office?

    And what of startups? In exchange for a nice chunk of equity in the company, engineers are known to work ridiculous hours. Hell, this happens at established companies if a big deadline is due. Can ANYONE stare at code for sixteen hours straight without a break and remain sane?

    I'm reminded of that Dilbert strip, where he has to account for his time, in five-minute intervals, to a *secretary*, of all people:


    DILBERT: "As usual, I've counted all the time I've wasted sitting in meetings as 'work', and the time I spent in the shower this morning, designing circiuts in my head as 'not work'".

    SECRETARY: "This is why I hate engineers".

    And it's not just a matter of general principle. There are often quite PRATICAL reasons to have 'net access (heh... USENET access, at that).

    My first job out of college involved some godafful ancient machines (HP-UX boxen that dated back to the mid-80s), kept around because they controlled equipment that wasn't even made anymore (sufice it to say, this was a defence contractor). Without the help of some of the more obscure newsgroups in the comp.* heiarchy, I'd have been hopelessly lost.

    My most recent job as a QA engineer involved a LOT of perl. Why should I NOT have perl.org as a reference? Why should I reinvent a function I need, if a module exists on cpan.org to do the job?

    Or, also on the QA job topic... I automated a lot of my regression testing, so that it required no input from me. But I still had to stick around to deal with the results, and file any bugs, when they finished. That could amount to an hour or more of downtime, with NOTHING to do. How does it harm the company if I order a few things from amazon while my tests are running?

    (Or in the case of the developers, while a build is compileing... which was known to take forever if we were building the whole system)

    When you come right down to it, if internet access is harming productivity, the problem is not the internet. The problem is that you haven't hired good employees.

    Sure, block the stuff that could lead to liability or downtime. Block the porn, and strip the .vbs attachments (Better yet, don't use outlook). But so far as productivity goes, the only metric that should matter is "Does the work get done?". If it doesn't, get new employees. But don't hassle everyone because of a few losers. If the work DOES get done, if all the deadlines are met, what the hell difference does it make if the engineers kick back talk on IRC to a few people?


    Imagine all the people...

    Hey! What do you mean "of all people"? (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by Karmakaze on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 05:20:44 PM EST

    I'm reminded of that Dilbert strip, where he has to account for his time, in five-minute intervals, to a *secretary*, of all people:
    Hey! The secretary just collects the data. Then it goes into a report to management. And are you implying that secretaries are somehow inferior beings?

    That said, I agree that the basic metric is "is the work getting done." If net use becomes excessive, a competant manager should be able to see the drop in productivity. Admittedly, I spend a lot of work time online - in 1-3 minute increments as my work related software churns. Does this mean I am not working? No. If I weren't reading on the web during downtime, I'd have a novel at my desk. 1-3 minutes is not long enough to start a new task, but too long to stare blankly into space.

    I have the same objection to mandatory drug testing (for non-life-and-death jobs) as I do to scrutinizing net use. Why should it be my employers business if I (hypothetically) take drugs on the weekends? If an employee comes in stoned, or their productivity drops, then that is the issue at hand. If the work gets done in an efficient manner, without waste of company resources, that is all that is the employer's business.

    [ Parent ]

    Yah... that was uncalled for. (4.00 / 1) (#44)
    by SvnLyrBrto on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 07:43:27 PM EST

    Hell, in general, secretaries are the ones you want to be NICE to... even more so than the executives.

    But, like Dilbert, I've had my own bad experiences with a secretary whose hobby was being the timesheet nazi. Though, at that job, time had to be accounted for in *SIX* minute increments. (1/10th of an hour... yes, this was that aforementioned defense contractor)

    Hell, even "dotted line" managers irk me to some degree. To have corperate drones lording over me who aren't even in the engineering heiarchy... Grrr!


    Imagine all the people...
    [ Parent ]

    whats the punishment? (5.00 / 3) (#28)
    by checkitout on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 02:09:57 PM EST

    Its great to say "the company should be able to restrict...", but how should it go about doing so? and what is the punishment for purposefully (or most likely inadvertantly) breaking the rules.

    I think most of these problems -- viruses, pr0n surfing, what have you -- can be avoided by properly educating employees to the fact that:

    A) Any unknown attachment can contain a virus, and that they should not open things from people they do not know.

    B) That all traffic is monitored at some level, and things like offensive material (aka pr0n) will get noticed.

    It's no secret that checking CNN all day or hitting up random sites on company time is frowned upon, I can't imagine anyone keeping a non work related browser window open as their boss walks by.

    What's the punishment? (none / 0) (#51)
    by Armaphine on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 08:40:26 AM EST

    Simple: Termination.

    When the managing body decides to put this into effect, give everyone notice that this system will be going into place on such-and-such date. Give ample time for everyone to get the word. At the point that you put the system into effect, fire the first two or three abusers that pop up.

    And while this obviously only addresses the problem of people who are purposefully looking for the banned material, I would have to imagine that, while surfing pr0n sites is one thing, having a banner ad or pop-up come up is another, and that management would look at the main site that the person in question was at, rather than an unfortunate bit of advertising.

    Question authority. Don't ask why, just do it.
    [ Parent ]

    Question (4.00 / 3) (#29)
    by medham on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 02:32:21 PM EST

    Are any of you system adminstrators? If so, is there anyway to tell if a worker spends all of his days posting on K5 rather than doing his assigned tasks?

    I need to know, as my manager has been given me funny looks as of late.

    The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

    Yep. (4.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Greyjack on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 04:17:58 PM EST

    Yes, there is.

    However, it's unlikely that they're monitoring my usage, since the network is (for all intents and purposes) mine.

    Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

    [ Parent ]
    Why ask systems administrators? (4.00 / 2) (#37)
    by orlkorrect on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 04:49:14 PM EST

    I need to know, as my manager has been given me funny looks as of late.

    My guess: your manager can see it in your eyes.

    Then again, the funny looks could be a result of that little dab of shaving cream on your ear. You always miss that bit, don't you?

    [ Parent ]
    Oh yes. (4.00 / 1) (#46)
    by sgp on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 02:57:38 AM EST

    Let's see, an Apache "combined" log shows: - - [19/Mar/2002:13:03:41 +0000] "GET http://fsmail.freeserve.com/fscag2/fsjavascript/fsHeadFoot.js HTTP/1.0" 304 87 "http://fsmail.freeserve.com/agent/mobmain?mobmain=1" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.0; Windows 98; DigExt)"

    just to take one example. That's Darren ( is Darren's PC) reading his personal email on Freeserve (an ISP here in the UK). I know what he's viewed, when, and how he linked to it, as well as what browser he used.

    Just remember : It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you!

    There are 10 types of people in the world:
    Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    [ Parent ]

    pfft, who cares if it is a right. (4.75 / 4) (#33)
    by QuantumG on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 03:01:45 PM EST

    Nothing is a right in the work place. Everything is determined by the old fashion leverage equation. If I quit because the boss pisses me off does the company lose money? If I ignore the boss and he fires me does the company lose money? These are the questions that determine how much freedom you have in the office (that and a good measure of reality distortion).

    Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
    keeping you off the internet (3.00 / 6) (#34)
    by eLuddite on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 03:08:36 PM EST

    should be seen as a fringe benefit comparable to a 25% increase in salary which you'd otherwise squander at thinkgeek or teenCheerleadersWhoLeadAsecretDoubleLife.com. Not even email! If no one was writing you letters before you got your first email account, none of your current email is more important than navel chat or gossip... loser.

    God hates human rights.

    No (3.33 / 3) (#35)
    by qpt on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 03:47:02 PM EST

    Certainly not.

    Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.

    studies... (5.00 / 2) (#39)
    by ronnya on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 05:21:12 PM EST

    Didn't Communications of the ACM have a special issue about Internet abuse in January earlier this year? I think the studies showed that Internet access in the workplace was good for employer satisfaction and (more surprisingly) productivity.

    What are the costs? (5.00 / 4) (#41)
    by bodrius on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 05:57:18 PM EST

    It's not really a right, but what are the costs for the company to monitor and restrict as opposed to trust the employees?

    Restriction will definitely cut productivity. If you restrict downloads of .ZIPs, .EXEs or .JARs, you might stop your employees from downloading things that are useful for the job.

    Even if they can go around it by requesting permission before or after the fact, they might just not download that new IDE or that free source code module because of the hassle. Sure, it might have been a waste of time, or it might have saved the company money in development time. The company will never notice this.

    Restricting websites is also a problem, a bigger one. If you restrict specific websites, you're probably not going to stop anyone from accessing their favorite porn site, it will be costly to administer such a system (building and updating the list of websites to restrict), and you might run into invalid restrictions if you use someone else's list (horror/humour stories about filtering software abound).

    What about restricting popular, time-consuming sites? I personally use Slashdot's search facilities to find links to interesting things whose URLs I can't remember (such as that company that's making a Java implementation of .NET, or that report on Win2K security vulnerabilites), or recommendations and reviews of books and tutorials. All of these can be justifiable argued as work-related for a techie.

    All the solutions cost money, and all the solutions can reduce productivity as a secondary effect. It is not easy to see where do you lose more productivity, unless it's a terminal case (employee actually does nothing but surf), in which case the problem is not the system, it's the employee.

    So, unless it's a no-brainer decision, restrictions don't seem a good idea. No-brainers are not allowing the receptionist download 500MB from the web.

    Handle problem cases on an ad-hoc basis; if someone's performance is lacking, you're bound to try to find the problem anyway, and treat Internet abuse as a possible cause (just like drug use, alcoholism, personal problems, etc). But that's usually employee-specific. Reducing the risk is, it seems to me, not worth the cost.
    Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
    Simple question. (4.66 / 3) (#43)
    by mewse on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 06:34:05 PM EST

    If you think I'm going to leak sensitive information, not to use all my time reloading kuro5hin, and not to otherwise misuse the Internet... then why do you trust me to write your mission-critical software in the first place?


    'Right;'? (5.00 / 2) (#45)
    by gloin on Tue Mar 19, 2002 at 11:03:50 PM EST

    How can you possibly think that it's a *right*? Where in law does it state that your employer is required to provide you with a large net pipeline? Hell, it's your employer's computer, your employer's building, and your employer's net connection; your employer determines what you do and do not get to use.

    You never have the right to use another's property. He may choose to grant you the privilige, but that is all; and he probably shouldn't even do that. I suspect the productivity of the programming community, for one, would increase dramatically if web use at work were curtailed.

    Right? (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by katie on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 03:52:07 AM EST

    No it's not.

    But on the other hand, if you want employees to learn, you might actually have to give them some materials. Technical employees /should/ spend 1/10th of their time learning and keeping skills up to speed. Otherwise you run the risk of having to spend to hire new people.

    Companies seem to miss that a lot of the learning these days is not something that gets taught on courses. They'll happily send all the staff on "relationships" courses where they get videotpaed hugging each other, but get pissed off if people spend time reading about XP on a Wiki.

    Really bright employees, the ones you want, the productive ones, are the ones that get involved in debates and are interested in improving their skills. Companies seem to want those employees when it comes to productivity, but without actually having to have them when it comes to resources.

    Essentially, the company wants to steal from me: It wants me to have skills and insights and abilities that I pay for do it can gain value from them. It wants more than the 8 hours a day it's paying for from me..

    [On a personal note, I think a company that makes outlook its only authorised email client and then needs to faff about filtering email is having to solve a problem entirely of their own making. Which is, in general, the case for a lot of these things.]

    No. (none / 0) (#49)
    by WWWWolf on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 07:52:02 AM EST

    "Personal" net use in work is not a "right". The employer should never be forced to allow the corporate network to be used for personal gains.

    However, it is always good manners to allow such things - to a reasonable extent! As long as employee uses it for "work" most of the time, and the "non-work" net use doesn't interfere with other employees' "work" use, it should by all means be allowed.

    Should you be able to run an IRC bot on a corporate server? Possibly. (Uses few computer resources and only a little bit of bandwidth, why not?)
    How about a badly written file sharing server? Possibly not. (Can we say "bandwidth hog"?)

    It's all relative.

    -- Weyfour WWWWolf, a lupine technomancer from the cold north...

    Putting a choke hold on employees yet to be hired (none / 0) (#56)
    by kopper499b on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 04:27:19 PM EST

    A decision today to choke access to the 'net might be setting up management for a huge debacle in years to come.

    Imagine, in 3 or 4 years, when a fresh group of entry level employees arrive (job function will not matter at this point.) Manager asks new employee, tell me why X is happening. New employee doesn't know much about X so he/she wants to do a little research first. In their HS/college days, the research was done on the net, so new employee opens up the browser and attempts to access a search engine. Only an error is returned, citing restricted 'net access. So the new employee, after having to ask around a bit, finds out that you must get approval to have any sort of access. Now the fresh-out-of-school employee has to call IT to find out the procedure. He/she then must get various signatures from HR, management, and whoever else. That HR person is on vacation, so forget about getting approval this week. Later on in the day, eager to find out how his/her new employee is doing, the manager asks about the answer. Now the new employee is screwed, on their first day.

    Moral of the story? The next generation of employees are being brought up in an environment where knowledge is known to be easily available on the 'net. Due to this, they begin to rely on this means of learning more. Web classes are now tought in most colleges, many secondary schools, and some primary schools. 2nd and 3rd graders look things up for homework asignments on the web. Students learn to rely on the web to help them learn and solve problems. But when they get to work, they won't be able to do so and will be stuck on their first days.

    Don't beleive it? You should. There is absolutly no way I could preform at my best without the web. It allows me to find out anything I might need to know in order to be an effective problem solver (a major part of my job.) I started using the 'net to help myself learn around '93-'94, at the beginning of HS, when it [the 'net] was in its infancy. Imagine someone who began using it yesterday, or today, as a secondary school kid.

    Although the security problems merrit much concern (hey- I'm in IT too!), a simple end to unrestricted 'net is a very short-sighted solution. And I'm not even mentioning all the other aforementioned reasons 'net access is inherently good (this does not, in any way, make it a 'right'.)

    BTW, on a personal note, the day I am stripped of 'net access is the day I stip my employer of any thought time spent on company business off company time.

    Side note: I posted this to 'the other site' 8 hours after the story was posted. As typical, that was too late and no discussion on this point was generated. Due to that sort of typical behavior over there, and in light of other recent trends, I have all but abandoned that site. I am hopeful that Kuro5hin will provide me with the sort of discussion I am after. So far, so good. But no conclusions yet.

    Nope its not a right - and heres why (none / 0) (#57)
    by eviltwin on Sat Mar 23, 2002 at 08:29:48 AM EST

    The net use argument is an issue - im surprised anyone still has unrestricted access.

    Here in australia we pay for bandwidth used and we monitor our usage carefully, we dont dictate we simply provide guidelines (which are international for our company) and people ar expected not to go outside them. We do scan our proxy logs for certain keywords and trust me get caught looking at porn its instant dismissal - no questions.

    None of my staff can bypass it as the scan results go directly to Human resources and i support it even though it wasnt my decision (its a global one)- they have no reason to be doing anything like that. (we set the rules fairly losely so nothing they need to look at for work is blocked and we allow a good selection of newsgroups and suchlike - we dont block FTP to anyone in the IT department etc)

    Now this might seem a bit extreme but thertes good reasons why i agree.

    1. We encourage our staff to use the Net responsibly and for legitimate research and work purposes, we dont mind reading a newspaper, looking at the sports results or catching up with a hobby during their breaks.

    2. We expect them to have the good sense to know what isnt appopriate and they sign a legal agreement noting they understand the conditions and the consequences of their actions BEFORE they get their login and passwords to the system.

    3. its work - not home

    The people i see who bang the drum about liberties and freedom are somewhat missing the point - its work, we pay you for a job and we pay for the resources you use and the computer you use them on - if you dont like it then find another job, internet is not a right no matter how much you claim it is

    Our support calls for people who have downloaded software have gone thru the floor and as its also a breach to do that people dont try it anyway.

    Why did we do this?

    our internet bills went thru the roof thats why and we looked at the traffic - guess what ? Porn sites, movie sites, tucows, game sites etc.

    2 staff sacked for breaches and now its a whole different workplace.

    I have zero tolerance for people who cant obey simple rules - in a previous management role i was the one who had to deal with kiddie porn found on a computer by one of my support guys when he was fixing it (Aust government so i had to call the police etc) and it was the most disgusting thing i have ever seen aside from ending up testifying in court. Look at porn on my network get your head lopped - what you do at home is your business and i like normal adult stuff as much as the next guy but i dont see it as appropriate in any circumstance for work.

    We also filter mail and block .mov, .mpeg, .mp3, .wav, .vbs, .js and a lot of others - we spend a lot of time securing and managing our systems and theres no work reason for any of the above products (we would block jpegs as well but they are sometimes (our work study indicates only about 30% of the time) work related.

    Now i might sound like a nazi but im not - we encourage people to use the web but we set some rules to follow that are really simple and fully laid out, you sign a contract that you understand it - if people cannot be bothered to read what they sign then god help them as internet policy will be the least of their problems.

    The internet isn't free and someone has to pay the bill - those that do have the right to say what isnt fair use.

    You need to seperate nice to have from need to have - you need to have food and oxygen you dont need to have internet access or pictures of naked women - if you do then you need help

    All generalisations are false, including this one.
    Is 'net use at work a right? | 57 comments (51 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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