From e-mail monitoring and website blocking to phone tapping and GPS tracking, employers increasingly combine technology with policy to manage productivity and minimize litigation, security, and other risks. To motivate compliance with rules and policies, more than one fourth of employers have fired workers for misusing e-mail and nearly one third have fired employees for misusing the Internet, according to the 2007 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey from American Management Association (AMA) and The ePolicy Institute.
Email and Internet-Related Terminations:
The 28% of employers who have fired workers for e-mail misuse did so for the following reasons: violation of any company policy (64%); inappropriate or offensive language (62%); excessive personal use (26%); breach of confidentiality rules (22%); other (12%).
The 30% of bosses who have fired workers for Internet misuse cite the following reasons: viewing, downloading, or uploading inappropriate/offensive content (84%); violation of any company policy (48%); excessive personal use (34%); other (9%).
Internet, E-mail, Blogs, and Social Networking:
Employers are primarily concerned about inappropriate Web surfing, with 66% monitoring Internet connections. Fully 65% of companies use software to block connections to inappropriate Websites—a 27% increase since 2001 when AMA/ePolicy Institute first surveyed electronic monitoring and surveillance policies and procedures. Employers who block access to the Web are concerned about employees visiting adult sites with sexual, romantic, or pornographic content (96%); game sites (61%); social networking sites (50%); entertainment sites (40%); shopping/auction sites (27%); and sports sites (21%). In addition, companies use URL blocks to stop employees from visiting external blogs (18%).
Computer monitoring takes many forms, with 45% of employers tracking content, keystrokes, and time spent at the keyboard. Another 43% store and review computer files. In addition, 12% monitor the blogosphere to see what is being written about the company, and another 10% monitor social networking sites.
Of the 43% of companies that monitor e-mail, 73% use technology tools to automatically monitor e-mail and 40% assign an individual to manually read and review e-mail.
“Concern over litigation and the role electronic evidence plays in lawsuits and regulatory investigations has spurred more employers to monitor online activity. Data security and employee productivity concerns also motivate employers to monitor Web and e-mail use and content,” said Nancy Flynn, executive director of The ePolicy Institute and author of The ePolicy Handbook, 2nd Edition (AMACOM, 2008), E-Mail Rules (AMACOM 2003), Instant Messaging Rules (AMACOM 2004), Blog Rules (AMACOM 2006), and other books related to workplace computer use.
“Workers’ e-mail and other electronically stored information create written business records that are the electronic equivalent of DNA evidence,” said Flynn, noting that 24% of employers have had e-mail subpoenaed by courts and regulators and another 15% have battled workplace lawsuits triggered by employee e-mail, according to 2006 AMA/ePolicy research. “To help control the risk of litigation, security breaches, and other electronic disasters, employers should take advantage of monitoring and blocking technology to battle people problems—including the accidental and intentional misuse of computer systems and other electronic resources,” Flynn said.
While only two states, Delaware and Connecticut, require employers to notify employees of monitoring, the majority are doing a good job of alerting employees when they are being watched. Fully 83% inform workers that the company is monitoring content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard; 84% let employees know the company reviews computer activity; and 71% alert employees to e-mail monitoring. But are employers doing enough to educate employees on their specific policies?
“Most employees receive policies regarding use of office business tools and privacy issues on the first day of employment, but too often they don’t read them. Employers need to do more than hand over a written policy,” says Manny Avramidis, senior vice president of global human resources for AMA. “They should educate employees on company expectations and offer training on an annual basis.”
Telephone and Voice Mail:
Six percent of employers have fired employees for misuse or private use of office phones. Fully 45% monitor time spent and numbers called, and another 16% record phone conversations. An additional 9% monitor employees’ voicemail messages. Most employers notify employees of phone (84%) and voicemail (73%) monitoring.
Almost half (48%) of the companies surveyed use video monitoring to counter theft, violence. and sabotage. Only 7% use video surveillance to track employees’ on-the-job performance. Most employers notify employees of anti-theft video surveillance (78%) and performance-related video monitoring (89%).
Global Satellite Positioning and Emerging Surveillance Technology:
Employers who use Assisted Global Positioning or Global Positioning Systems satellite technology are in the minority, with only 8% using GPS to track company vehicles; 3% using GPS to monitor cell phones; and fewer than 1% using GPS to monitor employee ID/Smartcards. The majority (52%) of companies employ Smartcard technology to control physical security and access to buildings and data centers. Trailing far behind is the use of technology that enables fingerprint scans (2%), facial recognition (0.4%) and iris scans (0.4%).
The 2007 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey is co-sponsored by American Management Association (http://www.amanet.org/) and The ePolicy Institute (http://www.epolicyinstitute.com/). Of the 304 U.S. companies that participated: 27% represent companies employing 100 or fewer workers, 101–500 employees (27%), 501–1,000 (12%), 1,001–2,500 (12%), 2,501–5,000 (10%) and 5,001 or more (12%).
American Management Association is a world leader in talent development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—learning through doing—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, conferences, Webcasts and podcasts, corporate and government solutions, business books, and research. Organizations worldwide, including the majority of the Fortune 500, turn to AMA as their trusted partner in professional development and draw upon its experience to enhance skills, abilities and knowledge with noticeable results from day one. For more information visit http://www.amanet.org/.
About The ePolicy Institute
The ePolicy Institute is dedicated to helping employers limit electronic risks, including litigation, through the development and implementation of written policies and employee training programs. An international speaker and trainer, Executive Director Nancy Flynn is the author of 10 books published in 5 languages. As a recognized authority on workplace e-mail and web usage, Nancy Flynn also serves as an expert witness in e-mail-related litigation. Since 2001, The ePolicy Institute has partnered with AMA on an annual survey of workplace e-mail and Internet policies and procedures. Nancy Flynn is a popular media source who has been interviewed by Fortune, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report, Business Week, USA Today, Readers’ Digest, New York Times, NPR, BBC, CNBC, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox Business News among others. For more information visit http://www.epolicyinstitute.com/.