Employee Computer Monitoring: System Analysis

Introduction

There has been a wide increase in the use of computers in businesses nowadays. This is due to the need to enhance communication and efficiency in the business field. The advanced technology has greatly boosted many companies and firms to open a new business in other places. The use of computers and the Internet by companies has also enabled companies to sell their products through the Internet, a move that has greatly boosted the performances of many businesses.

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The use of computers in companies has also accelerated the productivity of many firms due to the efficiency and reliability accompanied by the use of computers. On the other hand, the use of computers in businesses has faced some major challenges. These include; access to companies’ privacy through hacking, lowering of companies productivity due to high wastage of time by employees personal uses of computers such as writing emails to friends, other employees have used the Internet to download unauthorized materials and viewing unauthorized sites.

This has raised a great concern to many employers who have responded by installing computer systems that monitor the day-to-day activities of their employees to avoid loss incurred by the company due to wrong use of computers by employees. Therefore nowadays all the employee’s activities are monitored electronically making their privacy issues unavoidable at their work premises. Due to these arising issues, the need to monitor employees’ activities is inevitable to keep companies secrete safe, avoiding legal troubles for example when the employees copy illegally software at the workplace. The monitoring is aimed at restricting the workers to visit restricted websites and downloading illegal materials.

The major problem that exists between the employees and their employer about the monitoring of workers at their workplace is the existence of sound policies that regulate employee monitoring. These policies should state the extent to which employee monitoring is right and beyond where it is not acceptable as it intrudes on the privacy of the employees. The major reason for monitoring workers at their workplace is to ensure high productivity in the workplace.

This is because the wide use of the Internet and personal use of computers in the organization has grown very high. The research has shown that companies lost $5.4 billion to recreation surfing in 2000. Therefore employers are nowadays very keen to ensure that employees in their organizations are productive and helping to enhance their revenues by investing their time well in the company’s productive activities while at work. Therefore many employers have put into place mechanisms to monitor their employees in their workplace to ensure that employees do not spend more time for personal computer use than working.

Surfing the Internet and sending emails during working hours spends a lot of companies’ time hence reducing the companies productivity. It has been noted that employees do not spend working the hours they are paid. This is because they use a lot of the companies’ time sending emails to their friends. According to Cohen the more time the employees spend writing and sending emails the less time they are increasing productivity in their companies.

The high use of the Internet at the workplace by employees for personal purposes also wastes a lot of companies’ time due to Internet congestion. This in turn slows down the speed of surfing affecting even the official uses of the Internet. Therefore the restriction of the employees’ use of the internet for their surfing ensures that non-work-related working can free up bandwidth to reduce cost and increase productivity.. (Doherty2001)

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Literature Review on Limitation

Free access to the Internet by the employees increases productivity and efficiency. It has been noted that monitoring of employees’ use of Internet harm productivity. This is because it causes more stress to the employees. The use of computers to monitor workers causes stress, boredom, and low morale to the workers. It is believed that stress increases cost per employer. This is because employers under stress are more often sick.

This increases their sick leave, which leads to a decrease in productivity. This loss of productivity can be avoided if the employees are allowed to access the Internet freely without monitoring. The employees then would not get sick more often due to the stress associated with employee monitoring. Therefore the time wasted for sick leaves by the employees would instead be used productively to boost the companies’ performances.

It has been shown that work is getting done faster and the quality better when employees are allowed to access the Internet freely. This is because a worker who uses the working hours to surf the Internet works extra hours to compensate for that lost time. There is nothing wrong with an employee that works for twelve hours a day to spend an hour checking his/her emails and trading stock. High productivity in a company is not guaranteed when employees are denied the chance to use the Internet in the offices for personal purposes through employee monitoring. Instead, employers should motivate their employees well for employees to develop a positive attitude towards their companies. This will be a more effective and civilized way of sustaining high productivity in their companies than through employee monitoring.

Objection to the monitoring of employees arises because it invades the employees’ personal life. Electronic computer monitoring is intrusive, as it does not honor the privacy of employees. According to Seumas Miller privacy is completely relative to what people in a particular society are prepared to disclose about themselves. Hence privacy is a desirable condition, power, or moral right that a person has about other persons and concerning possession of information to other persons. Therefore privacy is personal and no one should interfere with it including one’s employer. This is because there is a moral obligation to respect an individual’s right to privacy.

Kristen Martin and John Weckert’s on the other hand refer to privacy as a measure of the amount of control we have over our information. With monitoring of employees electronically employers can search files on an employee’s computer and also access their emails. According to the definition of privacy that is provided by Martin, there is no privacy in the workplace since employees do not have control over their information, and employers have access to employees’ information. Advancements in technology make monitoring of employee’s activities easy especially in gathering their private information. “Keystrokes are used to monitor for speed and accuracy.

Other soft wares are used to monitor all the Internet logs activity so that a record is kept of all visits to all sites and email. Then the employer can access all the activities done by the employees on their computers. Employers have no absolute right to monitor employees (Miller and Weckert) These monitoring activities involve unjustified invasions of privacy and violate employee’s right to privacy.

Opposing to Seumas Miller and John Weckert’s point that monitoring has invaded employee’s privacy, Lane argues that searching e-mail can be monitored because e-mails are not entitled to privacy protection. E-mail is a written communication from one person to another person without particular protection. “Only letters that are sealed, stamped, and deposited in a U.S Postal Service mailbox are entitled to the privacy protection offered by federal law.

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Since e-mail does not remotely conform to postal regulations, it has roughly the same privacy protections enjoyed by postcards (Lane). E-mails are like postcards; they are not private documents and are open to the public. Incoming and outgoing e-mail is stored on a mail server, which the company has access. The company copies each e-mail and moves it to another backup drive, and the e-mail is kept there for as long as the company wants (Lane). Since e-mail is treated as postcards, everyone has access to it without submitting oneself to the violation of privacy.

Keeping company investments safe is another good reason for employee monitoring to take place. With a greater reliance on computer systems, company information and confidential documents are stored in the database, and they can be easily passed through e-mails. Disloyal employees can e-mail trade company secrets and intellectual property quickly and easily to the public. When sensitive company information passes through e-mail regularly, electronic monitoring is necessary to maintain the security of the organization (Martin and Freeman 3).

Companies that do not protect their investments securely, one hacker or virus can destroy everything. Security breaches and leaked out information are the result of lacking employee monitoring. Cohen says that “20th Century Fox in Los Angeles use electronic monitoring to make sure that confidential information about movie scripts, deals, and other Fox business does not leak outside the company. Electronic monitoring is useful to protect a company’s secrets and intellectual property. This is not the best way to secure sensitive information in a company.

This is because such sensitive files should be encrypted to ensure that even if unauthorized users access them they couldn’t be of any help to them since their content is scrambled. Also, the employees should be denied access to some areas in the company’s computer system and only allowed access to information that they use in their day-to-day activities.. (Doherty2001)

Employers use monitoring to avoid exposing themselves to liability for employee actions. Monitoring is to help prevent possible criminal activities by employees such as downloading unauthorized material to a work computer and selling illegal drugs through the Internet in a workplace. More problems include harassment, running a business using the company’s address, and running betting pools on football and basketball can be found in e-mail, which makes monitoring legitimate to investigate possible illegal actions (Lane).

Monitoring is necessary to reduce harassment in the workplace to maintain a safe working environment for employees. Martin and Freeean agree with Lane that businesses not only face increased liability for sexual harassment by employees, but employers have also become more concerned about illegal uploading or downloading and other copyrighted material to a corporate computer.

Evidence of these illegal materials including unauthorized music, movies, games, and software can be easily found in old e-mails and files. Courts are using these shreds of evidence to rule against employers and the company. According to the American Management Association survey “more than two-thirds of respondents claim that concern over lawsuits is very important in the decision to monitor” (Martin and Freeman). It is understandable that employers monitor Internet communication and search files in a worker’s computer so that to lessen employer liability for an employer’s illegal actions.

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While keeping employees away from inappropriate actions, employers can maintain a safe and hospitable working environment. Michael Higgins says that employers need to maintain a clean, good workplace. Sexually explicit and offensive e-mail in the workplace is harassing employees. Companies read employee e-mail or search employee files primarily when there is a complaint to suspect a harassment problem. Basse states, “The most common e-mail problem reported by one company was harassment”.

Therefore there is a need to monitor for possible legal troubles to protect the company from lawsuits for an employee’s misconduct. Agreeing with Higgins and Basse, Lane says that many companies install the software to mostly blocking adult material including adult content, nudity, sex, sex education. Companies use filters and monitors to block access to inappropriate materials and to keep the workplace clean and secure.

After discussing the advantages and disadvantages of employee electronic monitoring, most scholars, such as Mirshra and Crampton, Doherty and Morris, suggest that companies should establish sound and clear monitoring policies due to lack of legislation. Jitendra M. Mirshra and Suzanne M. Crampton point out that when considering the use of monitoring systems, employers should notify employees that they may be monitored and periodically remind employees and management of the policy If companies do not have a monitoring policy, they are at risk for lawsuits (Doherty).

Lawsuits and exposure liabilities can be avoided when employers take necessary steps to draft and implement common-sense policies and practices, educate employees about their expectations and enforce policies in an even-handed way” (Morris). Agreeing with Morris, Cohen also says that a few policies in place could save company headaches in the long run and keep employees away from misrepresenting the organization

Some guidelines in the company handbook for monitoring should include having employees read and sign off on the policy (Cohen), only business calls can be monitored, not personal ones, and employees should be involved in setting up procedures for monitoring (Basse). All technology-related policies should annually be adjusted accordingly and inform all employees of the employer’s explicit intention to monitor email, Internet use, and any other use of computers.

Because laws that concern privacy protection in the workplace are confused, clear guidelines for employee monitoring should be adopted. A sound monitoring policy benefits both employers and employees. Therefore the employee needs to have a guideline on how to use the company’s facilities and an employer is not held responsible for employee’s misconduct and invading one’s privacy. (Doherty2001)

Different scholars discuss productivity argument, privacy argument, security argument, and liability argument related to employee monitoring. Given these arguments, scholars bring out the disadvantages and advantages of employee monitoring. Advocates use individual arguments to argue for or against the adoption of employee monitoring. Business organizations may argue that electronic monitoring of employees benefits employers by increasing efficiencies and profits; it helps to maintain a safe working environment, which benefits employees. On the other hand, employee monitoring causes stress to employees and reduces productivity, as describes by Basse.

The objection occurs primarily based on the principle that privacy cannot be infringed. To avoid privacy violations, it is very important to have good reasons and establish clear guidelines when adopting monitoring in the workplace. Privacy issues have always been in place and continue to expand as technology advances. Also, arguments for issues related to employee monitoring are not conclusive. (Martin and Edward)

References

Basse, Sara. (2002). A Gift of Fire. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education.

Cohen, Sacha. (2001) Thought cop. InfoWorld. ProQuest Direct: Oklahoma State University Library.

Doherty, Sean. (2001)”Monitoring and privacy: Is your head still in the sand?” Network Computing ProQuest Direct: Oklahoma State University Library.

Lane, Frederick S III. (2003). naked employee: how technology is compromising workplace privacy. New York: AMACOM.

Martin, Kristen, and R Edward Freeman. (2003) some problems with employee monitoring: Journal of Business Ethics: Oklahoma State University Library..

Miller, Seumas and John Weckert (2000). Privacy, the Workplace and the Internet: Journal of Business Ethics: Oklahoma State University Library.

Mishra, Jitendra M and Suzanne M Crampton (1998) Employee Monitoring: Privacy in the Workplace?” S.A.M.Adavanced Management: Journal: Oklahoma State University Library..

Morris, Frank C Jr. (2003) “The Electronic Platform: Email and Other Privacy Issues in the Workplace.” Computer and Internet Lawyer. Oklahoma State University Library.

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