17 March 2006
Online Monitoring: A Threat to Employee Privacy in the Wired Workplace
Thesis: Although companies often have legitimate concerns that lead them to monitor employees’ Internet usage—from expensive security breaches to reduced productivity—the benefits of electronic surveillance are outweighed by its costs to employees’ privacy and autonomy.
I. Efficiency of electronic monitoring
A. Employers can gather data in large quantities.
B. Electronic surveillance can be continuous.
C. Electronic surveillance can be conducted secretly, with keystroke logging programs.
II. Legitimate reasons to monitor employees’ Internet usage.
A. Unmonitored employees could accidentally breach Security.
B. Companies are legally accountable for online actions of employees.
III. On-line monitoring can create an atmosphere of distrust.
A. Setting the boundaries for employee autonomy is difficult in the wired workplace.
1. Using the Internet is the most popular way of wasting time at work.
2. Employers can’t tell easily if employees are working or surfing the Web.
B. Surveillance can create resentment among employees.
... in employers interest in what employees are doing. Some people might argue that electronic monitoring of employees is spying on them. However, ... is why many people support use of electronic monitoring of private information in Internet. The Constitution does not protect citizens privacy ... not. FBI uses Carnivore only when other modes of surveillance are too dangerous or will not work. To install ...
1. Web surfing can relieve stress, and restricting it can generate tension between managers and workers.
2. Enforcing Internet usage can seem arbitrary.
IV. Surveillance may not increase employee productivity, and trust may benefit it.
A. It shouldn’t matter to the company how many hours salaried employees work as long as they get the job done.
B. Casual Internet use can actually benefit companies.
1. The Internet may spark business ideas.
2. The Internet may suggest ideas about how to operate more efficiently.
V. Employees’ rights to privacy are not well defined by the law.
A. Few federal guidelines exist on electronic surveillance.
B. Employers and employees are negotiating the boundaries without legal guidance.
C. As technological capabilities increase, there will be an increased need to define boundaries.
(Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007.12-13 and 408-412.)