Potential Problems with Internet Monitoring

The technical aspects of blocking website access and monitoring employee Internet access are not without problems. The software for blocking websites has advanced tremendously over the past 5 years; however, there are still problems with blocking “all” inappropriate websites and blocking websites that you did not intend to block. No system is perfect and you will need assistance from your selected software / hardware vendor in addition to your information systems department.

If possible, it is always better to meet, in person, with the vendor representatives prior to the purchase of any Internet monitoring software. Voice your concerns with the vendor and secure “after sale” support with the vendor help desk. If you have an information systems department, make sure they are involved from the start of the project to help address any technical problems that the new system could bring.

Monitoring Employee Internet Access - The People Side

Outside of the technical issues that will occur, the people side of Internet monitoring can be the most problematic of all. Even with the dissemination of information given at the Internet workshop and taking great care during your policy development, some employees will, inevitably feel that Internet monitoring is unfair. Given this fact, it is of the utmost importance that the Internet reports are accurate, beyond question. Even if they are correct, there are still issues to consider. The scenarios listed below are examples of how employees could react if they are confronted with the accusation of Internet abuse. Moreover, the excuses below may be completely accurate and good explanation by the accused.

It Wasn't Me!

It is always possible that some other person was on the accused employee’s computer surfing the Internet. Once a user steps away from the computer, anything can happen. Another person sits down and starts using the computer logged in as the accused, everything they do on the Internet is recorded under somebody else's name. One suggestion is to have the user lock their computer before leaving for an extended period of time; this will reduce the chances of misidentification of the Internet abuser.

Someone has my password

This is a similar situation to the one mentioned above, if I have a user's password, I could log-in as the user and all of my Internet access would be attributed to them. How they got the password is another issue entirely, however the user makes a good point and has a potentially valid excuse for an Internet report that shows abuse.

"The Internet Report is Wrong"

This can occur if the monitoring software is setup incorrectly or if there are network issues causing identification problems. This is another reason why you want your information systems department involved from the start and technical support from the vendor who sold you the Internet monitoring solution. Defending an Internet report that shows abuse is a difficult when you don't understand how the technical aspects of Internet monitoring work.

The Bottom Line

Internet reporting is not an exact science, the reports could be wrong, and the person accused of Internet abuse may be completely innocent. The key is to research the potential offender and look into their history. People who abuse the Internet usually have a history of doing so, so look into their past Internet use first and then look at the Internet records on their computer. In short, do a “reality check”. Too often we take technology for its word and fail to look on the human side for insight that may confirm or make us question our suspicions. This practice will help reduce the number of errors that could be made during the investigation of Internet abuse, and help the employer maintain their credibility.

Internet abuse is a fact of life in most large organizations today. Monitoring employee Internet use and employing blocking technologies can be helpful in reducing employer liability and improving employee productivity. Developing an acceptable use policy to outline acceptable Internet behavior in your organization is the first step in the process. To implement this policy successfully, the policy must be supported by upper, mid, and line level managers. The organization should endeavor, with enthusiasm, to educate the employees of the organization about Internet abuse and share the organizations plans to monitoring use and block inappropriate websites.

Prior to purchasing a software or hardware solution for Internet monitoring / blocking, a vendor should be selected and invited into the organization to explain the technical problems that can occur with Internet monitoring and blocking technologies. During this vendor selection process, it is very important to include your information systems department and other technical staff. Arranging after-sale support with your vendor of choice is highly recommended.

Finally, there is the people side of the problem. Internet monitoring and blocking are only as good as the software and hardware solutions that are developed. There are many ways that these solutions can fail, so doing a thorough investigation prior to accusing an employee of Internet abuse is also highly recommended.

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