The latest work email, Net problems

Lots of worrying, few answers

It's a big modern topic (look out for the sociolologists): email, the Internet and how they fit into the modern working environment. Plenty of complex issues abound, particular because of email's unique properties - bolstered by the RIP legislation.

First of all, and disturbing, but - let's be honest - expected, is a survey by KPMG saying that one in five employers are sort of breaking the law by reading employees emails without first getting their consent. We say sort of because thanks to the cock-up over RIP and the delay in the code of practice, it currently sits in a legal grey area.

Tied in with this, formal proceedings are frequently taken against those seen to be abusing email and the Internet. Twenty per cent of those disciplined for email abuse get the sack and 55 per cent caught downloading porn are sacked.

On to the next - and possibly most interesting - part of the same survey. There appears to be a weird class divide still in large firms, with those on the lower ranks not being given Internet access. In 30 per cent of the 200 firms quizzed, staff below middle management aren't given Internet access (can't be trusted see?). If the IT firms are pulled out of the figures - this goes up to 40 per cent. Who'd have thought it?

The reason behind it, apart from cost, is concern over the recent cases of Net abuse. Now we all know this is only scratching the surface. Plenty of managers see themselves as a race apart and their underlings as dumb beasts. Plus a few are sadists. But there you go.

On the flip side, software company Surfcontrol has never had it so good (or so it told the FT). Revenue has tripled in Q2 due to demand for its product - Web filtering software. Of course, companies are all a bit shook up (ah huh huh) what with these newspapers stories connecting well-known companies with porn and the like. Surfcontrol doesn't discourage them either.

And so people have thrown money at the problem, seemingly oblivious to the fact that most filtering software is poor, stopping some valid content and missing others. Staff will be quick to find the holes.

If companies spent a bit less time trying to control staff and more time making the situation clear to them, we reckon they'd get a better result. ®

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