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May 03, 2001 12:17pm
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Source: MyPrimeTime
by: Tahl Raz

Don in HR runs a small but lucrative amateur porn site. Martha in biz dev spends the afternoon hours forwarding her favorite raunchy yarns to as many lucky recipients she can amass. It's all on company time, all on the office computers.

This is the bawdy reality uncovered by a recently released survey from Vault.com that found more than 90 percent of employees surf non-work-related site during the workday and more than 80 percent spend a good chunk of the day on personal e-mails.

All around the country, businesses are learning the hard way that technology can be as prurient as it is productive. Just two weeks ago The New York Times fired 20 employees for sending "inappropriate and offensive" e-mail. Chevron was forced to pay $2.2 million in a sexual harassment suit filed by a group of women who claimed the company allowed sexually offensive messages to be distributed on the company's computer system.

The threat of lawsuits and the effects on productivity are forcing employers to establish some hard-nosed policies restricting employees' use of e-mail and the Internet. The legal boundaries have yet to be delineated and organizations like the ACLU maintain a keen interest on the debate as it unfolds.

The key for entrepreneurs, author Michel R. Overly stresses, is developing a strategy that keeps privacy advocates at bay while protecting the company's interests.

Overly examines the issue in E-Policy: How to Develop Computer, E-Policy, and Internet Guidelines to Protect Your Company and Its Assets, and proposes a three-step defense:

• Have a company policy on computer and e-mail use. Make it very specific on the rights and obligations of employees.
• Hold training and awareness seminars for employees. The company must emphasize its right to monitor employee files and e-mail.
• Install monitoring and filtering software.

If these measures conjure up images of Tricky Dick, consider this: 45 percent of major U.S. companies electronically monitor employees' communications and performances, according to a 1999 survey conducted by the American Management Association.

Developing a Company E-Policy:

• Have a company policy on computer and e-mail use. Make it very specific on the rights and obligations of employees.

• Have training and awareness seminars for employees. The company must emphasize its right to monitor employee files and e-mail.

• Install monitoring and filtering software.

• www.Telemate.Net has developed sophisticated surveillance software.

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