Prying Eyes Are Watching You

Infoworld reports on a new survey of corporate enterprises and the monitoring of their employees. Specifically, it addresses employee network activities and penalties for violating acceptable usage policies.

According to the survey, one third of companies surveyed have fired employees for misusing their internet access, and a quarter of them have canned people for abusing their e-mail account privileges.

From Infoworld:

A new survey found that more than a quarter of employers have fired workers for misusing e-mail, and one third have fired workers for misusing the Internet on the job. 304 U.S. companies of all sizes were surveyed.

84 percent said the employee was fired for accessing porn or other inappropriate content. As many as 34 percent of managers in the study said they let go of workers for excessive personal use of the Internet.

Among managers who fired workers for e-mail misuse, 64 percent did so because the employee violated company policy and 62 percent said the workers’ e-mail contained inappropriate or offensive language. 22 percent said their workers were fired for breaching confidentiality rules in e-mail.

Twelve percent monitor blogs to track content about the company, and 10 percent monitor social-networking sites.

The technology used to monitor corporate usage is increasingly aggressive. Newer monitoring packages can capture all VOIP activity on a network too, so your manager may be able to listen to recorded phone conversations. And if you spend more time chatting with your honey than making sales calls, you might get a pink slip.

What’s more, tools that may potentially protect your privacy on the job are banned from many networks. Monitoring tools easily detect TOR sessions (they can’t read the content though), and employees aren’t the only ones that know about open proxies on the Internet. If you send too many encrypted e-mails, which also leave a telltale signature, the monitoring team may call for an audit of your hard drive next time you call in sick, so they can see what all the secrecy is about.

And if you think your personal thoughts on your own free time are your own, think again. Some bosses monitor what you post on your blogs or MySpace pages.

So how should you protect your privacy? If you must browse personal Web sites at work, use a mobile device with its own web connection—like an iPhone. Just don’t get caught syncing your personal devices to the corporate network without permission. You should also be diligent about staying anonymous on the Internet when it comes to your private life. Don’t tell your coworkers or your boss about your personal blogs or social-networking sites, and make sure they don’t show up when doing an Internet search of your own name.

Create an Internet handle, or nickname, for yourself and use that name for your personal sites. Tie your social networking sites and blogging accounts to an open, anonymous e-mail account like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. Don’t disclose your Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail address to your employers, and don’t access those accounts from the corporate network or send data to those accounts if you want them to remain private, because each of those e-mail accounts usually ties into other profile information about you.

Create an online professional profile of yourself using your real name. If you use LinkedIn or other professional development and social sites, use your corporate email address and not your personal one to keep your personal and professional life segregated online. This way, a Google search on your name turns up only clean, professional results, not links to your LiveJournal page with photos of you doing Jello shooters off a co-ed’s tummy in 2002. And always remember, you really are being watched.

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