There has been many uses of the Internet since its rise. Internet users can shop, talk to each other, watch videos and use it for work. Yet, how it is used at work is a controversial subject, with employers monitoring their workers’ usage, disciplining them and even firing them for what they consider illegal use of company property, such as goofing off or posting items that they feel reflect badly on the company. And employees consider it intrusive for employers to be spying on them, and feel that using the Internet is similar to using mail, the telephone or just talking to others. I feel it is unethical for employers to spy on their employees.
According to a 2007 American Management Association/Policy Institute survey, two-thirds of employers monitor internet use, including content, keystroke use, and time spent at the keyboard (Petrecca). While they used to use expensive private investigators and large video cameras, now they use web cams, small cameras and GPS-enabled cell phones (Petrecca).
Employees, meanwhile, feel their right of privacy is being violated. Like when snail mail is addressed to one person, if an email is addressed to one person, they feel that nobody other than themselves has the right to read it (Mujtaba). Yet, companies feel they have the right, because it may affect them or leave them liable (Mujtaba). But it may not lead to a healthy work environment if workers feel employers do not trust them.“Employees do not want every sneeze or trip to the water cooler logged” (Mujtaba).
Social media is another concern. Some companies have a policy that prohibits social media posts that may be seen as damaging to the company, even when the worker is off the clock (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse). Yet, in some states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, North Dakota and New York, workers cannot be disciplined for their posts, unless it can be proven to damage the company (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse). While there is no one federal law, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employees can discuss wages or working conditions among themselves (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse). Some other states have prohibited employers asking workers or applicants for their username and passwords for private accounts (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).
While computer usage is one of the touchy subjects between employer and worker, a rational written policy discussed between the two sides can avoid a lot of problems that may arise. It would be beneficial for both sides to educate themselves on their rights and responsibilities when it comes to computer usage and the workplace.
- Petrecca Laura, “More Employers Use Tech to Track Workers”, USA Today, 17 March 2010, Web. 21 June 2013, retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/
- Mujtaba, Bahaudin G., “Ethical Implications of Employee Monitoring: What Employers Should Consider, Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, n.d., Web. 21 June 2013, retrieved from http://www.huizenga.nova.edu
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring, 2013 June, Web. 21 June 2013, retrieved from https://www.privacyrights.org