Employers Step Up Internet Monitoring Efforts

More than 60 percent of employers surveyed in the 2001 Electronic Policies and Practices Survey exercise their legal right to monitor employees’ email and Internet activity, further proof that monitoring is becoming standard operating procedure.

The survey, a joint effort of the American Management Association, The ePolicy Institute and U.S. News and World Report, found that employers have become increasingly aware of the dangers in workplace computer use and are taking steps to reduce their liabilities. Of the 435 employers surveyed, 61.6 percent monitor employees’ email and Internet connections. Among employers who monitor, 68.3 percent cite legal liability as the primary reason to keep an eye on employees’ online activity — and with good reason.

“Smoking gun” email has become so common in workplace lawsuits that 9.4 percent of U.S. companies have been ordered by courts to produce employee email, and 8.3 percent have battled sexual harassment and/or sexual discrimination claims stemming from employee email and/or Internet use.

A survey done by Quick Take for filtering software concern SurfControl Inc. polled both IT managers and corporate Internet users on their views about the use of filtering software within their organization, and found that filtering is becoming standard operating procedure for businesses in the digital economy.

Nearly 83 percent of the respondents believe that employees use the company’s Internet for personal use. While less than half of all corporate Internet users surveyed confirmed their company currently has some form of monitoring or filtering tool in place, more than 75 percent view Internet monitoring and filtering procedures as an absolute necessity.

Forty-two percent of IT managers surveyed cite Internet monitoring and filtering software as standard operating procedure within their organization, while 70 percent of IT managers believe that it should be. The study also found that 60 percent of overall corporate Internet users agree with IT managers’ position on incorporating filtering into their Internet Acceptable Use Policy.

IT managers’ primary reason for adopting Internet filtering software within their organization is enhanced security (54 percent), followed by increasing productivity (20 percent) and protecting corporate reputation (20 percent).

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