Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/02/16/it_workers_expect_big_brotherstyle/

IT workers expect Big Brother-style snooping at work

Not so happy when personal emails are read out

By John Leyden

Posted in Business, 16th February 2001 14:43 GMT

IT workers are fairly relaxed about the prospect of their employers monitoring their online activity at work but jealously guard their privacy at home.

That's the conclusion of a survey of 1,100 workers by online technology recruitment site techies.com, which discovered many technology staff would take legal action if their privacy outside work was breached by their employers.

Most technical staff are resigned to - and sometimes even expect - some degree of electronic monitoring in the workplace, even though fewer than half said their company has a formal, written policy that covers employee monitoring.

Interestingly almost three quarters of those surveyed report the degree of workplace monitoring has increased over the last two years, something as IT workers they ought to know because it could be part of their job to keep snooping technology up and running. The reason given by most for increased monitoring is "the company doesn't trust its employees", and the feeling may well be mutual in some cases.

According to the study, IT professionals were far more likely to accept monitoring of their Internet surfing than use of email or telephone conversations. As many as four in ten said they would formally complain if their email was monitored.

The few who say they have endured such a privacy breach at work tell some outrageous stories.

"Our company was monitoring our emails. One day my boss announced to everyone the contents of a personal email I received. I quit the next week," wrote one correspondent.

While the survey suggests that technical staff will tolerate a "Big Brother" attitude at work it suggests they will draw the line at monitoring of their personal lives. Less than 30 per cent of respondents were willing to have employers check their credit records, and less one in 20 would put up with any company that "monitors my behaviour outside of work".

The survey has a certain level of credibility because of the number of people polled but we can't help but fell and opportunity was missed to ask more detailed questions. Most workers might be perfectly content about been blocked from porn sites, but what about monitoring of access to job or sports sites?

That's just one question and there's doubtless many more about the appropriateness of deployment of particular technologies by employers that might be posed. Obviously we can't have expected a question about whether it's right to read out Claire Swire-style emails in the office but its not unreasonable to have expected more detail from the survey. ®

External link

Findings from the techies.com survey

Related Stories

Bosses join email snooping scrum
Employee email monitoring saga continues
TUC gets arsey about RIP email laws
Yummy Claire gets in touch with The Reg
Is this the greatest ever email hoax?