Internet use policy refers to the rules, guidelines and instructions an employer gives to an employee concerning the utilization of the company’s internet facilities at the place of work. Internet facilities include email, chat conferences, and chat conferences. Employees are usually required to sign a policy agreement that verifies that they agree to abide by the stipulations of the company’s internet usage policy. These policies are fundamental to any business as they outlaw the misuse of internet services in the company during work hours. Misuse may occur by using the internet to access pornographic sites, conduct illegal activities and cyber-crime such as sexual harassment. This paper examines the Internet use policy of American Bar Association- one of the world’s largest voluntary profession organization with almost 400000 members and 3500 entities. There are various internet use policies the company, as well as other law firms, have adopted and various issues relating to the personal use of the internet during work hours.
Intellectual Property Rights Regarding Internet Use Policy
The use of internet has resulted in various concerns over intellectual property and the need to protect those rights. The internet has facilitated much theft of content online. American Bar Association, just as other law firms, has regulations that control the use of the internet with regards to intellectual property. It permits the downloading of text and other non-executable files. Moreover, it advocates for printing out downloaded files having checked with other users that there are no other competing firm- related needs for the print. American Bar Association has a copyright and social media committee that formulates policies regarding the copyrightable subject matter in the broad sharing of information over the internet through social media platforms (American Bar Association, 2015).
Monitoring and Filtering System
Most companies treat the abuse of internet by employees by surveillance and filtering of information accessed by an employee online. This process involves the analyzing the traffic on the internet. Law firms such as American Bar Association monitors and the packet of volume for network configuration as well as to find out how employees are spending their time on the internet. Web filtering refers to the blocking of unwanted websites. On the way in which law firms practice filtering is by giving employees access to the web but not to file transfer.
In American Bar Association, employees are highly monitored and cautioned against using the firm’s name when accessing anything online. When visiting interactive sites, users are encouraged to think twice before using the company’s name in any manner.(American Bar Association, 2015). However, in as much as there is employee monitoring, the American Bar Association policy allows its employees to access personal emails and conduct personal web surfing. Most employers allow the incidental use of email and web surfing for personal purposes and that seem fair enough to us. However, if an employee engages in personal web cruising or electronic communication for the bulk of their day, they are outside the policy.(American Bar Association, 2015).
Employee monitoring and web filtering have very many disadvantages. Content filtering may increase tension between the employee and the employer. Since such an action affects an employee who has violated a company’s policies, web filtering may irritate and the worker who adheres to internet policy regulations. In addition to that, filtration may block a web page that is not a problem in the workspace. Therefore, they are not very efficient. An employee may also establish other ways of accessing a blocked website which may pose a significant risk to the security of an organization. Moreover, numerous websites are created each day, and the employer may lack the capability to identify all the potential risky websites. Moreover, the employer may not be able to block all created websites.
End User training program related to internet use/abuse.
Most employers fail to offer training to the employees, who are the end users of the internet on what is allowed and what is not. In a publication on the American Bar Association website John W. Simek and Sharon D. Nelson suggest that employers should not blame the employees if they have not been clear about what they can and can’t do. The organization always addresses the issue of privacy and confidentiality to its employees. The following are ways in which American Bar Association suggests on implementation of training of employees:
- Employees have to have a 12-character alphanumeric passwords.
- Employees should receive training on changing their passwords every 30 days and should not repeat them
- Ensure that they have a login and a screensaver password.
Ethical and Legal Issues Regarding Personal Use of Internet during Work Hours
Ethically, there is certain behavior concerning the use of internet in an organization that is deemed unacceptable. Personal use of the internet may be allowed by some organizations while others may be forbidden. However, personal use of the internet to access internet sites whose content is considered to be obscene, spiteful, or pornographic is ethically wrong. Using the computer to send offensive or harassing materials is unacceptable. Moreover, even where an organization always personal use of the internet, as advocated by America Bar Association, use of the internet for personal reasons for a long time negating the company’s task is unethical.
The law also prohibits personal use of the internet to perpetrate any form of fraudulent practices, software or film piracy. Moreover, the law warns against downloading commercial software or any copyrighted content. Hacking is also an illegal act, and personal use of the internet to hack unauthorized areas may result in prosecution in a court of law.
Effect of Personal use of Internet during Work Hours on Quality of Work and Productivity
According to a survey was done by Salary.com, personal surfing during work hours is the number one way in which employees waste time and hence cost companies billions of dollars per year. Studies show that when employees are instructed not to use the internet for personal use, it requires too much willpower to resist that it affects the productivity of an employee- it reduces. Social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google plus influence very many workers to waste time as they use the internet during work hours to access these sites. Every hour wasted contributes to a loss for a company.
The quality of work is also affected when employees spend too much of their time on the internet doing non-work related activities. Some of the activities in a company may require particular attention or care of duty. However, too much time spent on the internet by employees for non-work related activities may impede the achievement of such.
In conclusion, companies should come up with good policies that curb the misuse of internet facilities by employees. However, such policies should be created within the legal framework of the country involved. In addition to that, uncontrolled personal use of a company’s internet may negatively affect productivity and quality of output of the firm.
American Bar Association. (2015, March 15). Retrieved from Essential Law Firm Technology Policies and Plans: http://www.americanbar.org/publications/law_practice_magazine/2012/march_april/hot-buttons.html
Bidgoli, H. (2014). P – Z. Hoboken: Wiley.