Indeed, there is little reason not to. Tools (primarily software, but some appliances and hosted services) are relatively inexpensive ($10,000 a year for a company with 500 employees). It's pretty easy to sell upper management on the purchase given the risks associated with inappropriate computer use and the potential legal costs if you're sued for having a hostile working environment because someone came across a computer screen with images not fit for the workplace. And the real dirty work of confronting errant employees is (or should be) done by human resources, not the CIO.
Among companies with between $50 million and $1 billion in revenue, about half monitor employee Web use today, according to a CIO Decisions magazine survey of 394 subscribers in September 2006. That usage is largely a result of security concerns; the chief reason that businesses begin monitoring is the need to block access to Web sites that spread spyware and other forms of malware, says Gartner analyst Lawrence Orans.
"It took a while to convince [midsized companies] that they needed this tool; this was never about liability for them," says Paul Myer, president and COO of 8e6 Technologies, an Internet filtering, monitoring and reporting firm based in Orange, Calif. "The single biggest growth area [for monitoring and filtering tools] is the midmarket."
Most midmarket organizations have policies outlining Internet usage; that gives employees little leverage to argue when they've been caught surfing inappropriately. It doesn't mean every employer does a great job of getting the word out, however, says Jeff Stanton, associate professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University and co-author of The Visible Employee. Employees are not always aware they're being monitored, and even if they are, the lines demarcating what is considered acceptable content to view at work or on work computers are blurred. But Stanton admits, "There's no shortage of stupidity anywhere in our country."
True, there are employees running escort services from their desks, but that's still pretty rare, experts say. Even vendors admit it, although they do love to spill details about the most outlandish abuses. One company even conducts a yearly contest and awards prizes for the best stories.
At one company, for example, an employee tried to get into a porn site 72 times in one day. At another, an employee was on a porn site eight hours a day. He was caught not just looking at porn, but actually running a call girl service from his desk.
This was first published in January 2007