Internet Privacy at Work: Main Reasons

A policy on the usage of the internet spells out the behavior of internet browsing that is perceived to be the most appropriate within the workplace (Foltz, Cronan & Jones, 2005). Typically, such a policy seeks to enforce on the employees of an organization, time restrictions at a time when they are browsing the internet and more so when the content has no connection with the type of work that such an organization is concerned with. Furthermore, such a policy also states the sites that could be accessed by the employees.

When an organization has in place a policy on the use of the internet, this is mean to see to it that the employees adhere to instructions whose aim is to preserve the network infrastructure for information technology, as well as the work environment for the employees (Schulman, 2001). As a project manager at a construction company, there are a number of privacy policies as regards the use of e-mail and the internet that my organization has put in place. For example, the employees are forbidden from accessing their individual email accounts during working hours, as well as auction and social networking sites like Facebook.

The reason behind this is because research indicates that when such sites are used excessively, there is a likelihood that cyberslacking; the act of avoiding the responsibilities at the place of work due to extreme usage browsing of the internet (Foltz et al, 2005). In this case, the organization is really concerned about a potential reduction in the productivity of its employees.

To cushion against such occurrences, our employer has made it clear that we are often monitored, in terms of the internet sites that we access. Furthermore, the downloading of attachments or software that is not related to the activities of the organization is also forbidden. This is because of a possible virus infection of the computer network within the organization.

To this end, the employer has sought to warn us of the potential dangers of downloading files that are unknown. In any case, our employer has made it clears that having internet services at the workplace is more of a privilege, as opposed to a right, and so the more reason why the employees ought to follow the laid-down policies as regards internet and e-mail usage.

By and large, current laws on the privacy of employees’ use of the internet and e-mail at their place of work seem to favor the interests of the employer, at the expense of the privacy rights of the employees. The protection of privacy is commonly viewed as an index of the level to which the personal affairs of an individual could be intruded on by society. The idea of privacy has roots in the supposition that all the information pertaining to an individual (for example, an employee), is their own, in order that such an individual may retain or communicate this information in such a manner as they deem it necessary.

In the computerized workplace that we are living in, it would be expected that employees would often receive e-mails, in addition to a need on their part to send messages via the internet to others. As such, a majority of the employees harbor a legitimate expectation that their privacy as regards their personal information at their place of work would be respected by the organization.

On the whole, it is the feeling of the courts that the business interest and needs of an employer supersede the privacy interest of the employees (Welebir & Kleiner, 2005). For this reason, employees lack rights with regard to privacy while they are communicating via the internet and through e-mails as well, at their places of work. Little wonder then, that employers are increasingly being seen to access or monitor the private communications of their employees during the working hours, at the workplace.

Companies develop and then implement detailed internet and e-mail policies of usage with a view to addressing the potential challenges that result when employees sought to access e-mail account and internet sites during working hours (Welebir & Kleiner, 2005). One of the main reasons why such policies are laid out is to prevent a reduction in the productivity of the employees, as studies have shown a correlation between, on the one hand, a reduction in employees’ productivity and on the other hand, increased levels of usage of the internet at the workplace (Welebir & Kleiner, 2005).

Then there is the issue of virus attacks to the information technology system in the workplace, and the resultant destruction of files and valuable company information. For this reason, the employer would want to monitor the internet access of the employees, as a way of minimizing possible risks. Furthermore, companies may opt to restrict access to e-mail and the internet by their employees within the workplace on financial grounds.

This is because internet usage, especially when not serving the objectives of an organization, is a drain on the resources of an organization (Foltz et al, 2005), both financially and in terms of the time that the employees waste browsing. We should also note that internet access comes at a cost to the business, in the name of fees that are payable to the Internet Service Providers, not to mention the costs of the hardware that is needed to contain enhanced data storage and network traffic.

There are a lot of misconceptions that are often shared by employees as regards the issue of their privacy, while at their workplaces. One assumption that appears to be held widely by a majority of the employees is the “Freedom of information Act”, better known as the “Privacy Act”. This is the Act that prohibits an organization from making public the personal information of an employee (Lattal et al, 2006), such as their Social Security number.

However, Federal laws require an employer to reveal such kinds of private information when deemed necessary, to those in authority. In this case, an employer could feel as if they have been short-changed by their employer, given that during the time when they were signing their employment contracts, an employer could have indicated that they shall endeavor to guard the privacy of their employees.

Issues of “identity theft” have also been seen to be on the increase in the place of work (Lattal et al, 2006). In this case, another person uses utilizes the personal information of a given employee (the victim), and sustains obligations using the name of the victim.

Oftentimes, such a victim is left in a financial mess that they have to take care of. It is the assumption of the employee that their employer would safeguard their privacy, even after they have left the company. Nonetheless, we should remember that information hackers are the increase, and they also tend to have sophisticated software that helps them to gain access to the databases of companies. As such, employees should not entirely fault their employer, in the event of their privacy being breached.

References

Foltz, C., Cronan, T., & Jones, T. (2005). Have you met your organization’s computer usage policy? Journal of Industrial Management & Data Systems, 105, 2, 137-146. Web.

Lattal, A. D., Clark, R. W., & Aubrey, C. (2006). A good day’s work: sustaining ethical behavior and business success. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.

Schulman, A. (2001). ‘Computer and internet surveillance in the workplace’ 8(3) PLPR, 8, 3, 49.

Welebir, B., & Kleiner, B. (2005). How to write a proper Internet usage policy. Journal of Management Research News, 28, 2/3, 80-87. Web.