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Modern organizations, government departments, multinational companies, small businesses are mainly running their business relate tasks electronically. Providing Internet to employees has become a business necessity. E mails, Blogs, Forums and sometimes instant chat programs are use to achieve desired business goals, communicate, collaborate and even to do researches. But more often employees are misuse resources provided by the employer.
According to the scenario employees are sending personal emails, surfing social networking web sites and downloading music while they are at work. Because the misuse of organization's resources, company Director asked from system administrator to monitor all employees activities without telling them. System administrator might ask following questions from his/her self before monitor employee's activities. Is it ethical to monitor web sites visited by employees? Is it ethical to read employee's private emails just because you have privilege to do that? Is it ethical to place key loggers on computers within the network, so system administrator can monitor what employee types and what contents in the screen? Is it ethical to minimize the bandwidth within employee work environment, so employees can't download music? Is it ethical to look at employee's files and folders which are located in file server?
System administrator can act so unethically if he/she wishes to; this is known as "slippery slope" which defines that person can do unethical things which are not seems to be unethical, for an instance system administrator can easily look at employee's private emails because he/she has all privileges and might change the contents in emails just because for his/her own pleasure.
I will discuss what are the ethical, social, legal issues in both employer, employee and system administrator's point of view for email privacy , surfing social networking sites and downloading music while at work in depth when my essay progress.
To achieve most of the business goals 'E mail' factor is very critical. Everyday classified and vital data for the organization transfer via emails. But more often employees are using emails for personal matters such as send jokes, videos, to harass other employees and even they might try to send data which are classified for immoral and illegal purposes rather than using emails for official matters.
According to case study, system administrator has authorization to access employee's emails even though employees don't know about that. In employer's point of view that's a fair call because employees are unnecessary using company's bandwidth and working time. Most of the modern organizations are already included email policies saying that employee's email isn't private and organization has fully authorization to view employee's emails anytime. A survey conducted by American Management Association (AMA) (Reference 1) shows that more than half of the companies who took the survey monitoring their employee's emails and if any employees violate email polices organizations are not going to hesitate to take legal actions against them. Some organization don't have any email policies but still they can legally access to employee's email because computers use to access to emails belongs to organization and particular email server belongs to organization as well. Perfect example for support this fact is that Texas court ruled out saying it is legal to access employee's emails by the employer. The court order is below mention; (I copied below statement from the source because I don't have authority to change a court order).
"Searching email stored in an employee's private computer folder is not the same as searching an employee locker, for which courts have held an employee does have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The difference is that the material in an employee's locker is personal and the employer knows that. Email folders stored on an employer's computer even if protected by an employee password are not personal property but "merely an inherent part of the office environment" ". (Reference 2)
Another fact is that as I mentioned earlier there is a big risk when it comes to classified data because employees might trade organizations secrets to competitors via emails. To overcome above risk there should be a way and the best way is to monitor all employees' emails by system administrator.
Employees point of view few ethical and social issues are arising. What if system administrator found out some personal information about that particular employee, system administrator can get political advantages within the organization, can embarrass above person, there is a possibility of black mailing as well. Same survey conducted by American Management Association (AMA) reveals that 15% of companies had faced lawsuit relating to employee email. (Reference 3)
At the same time what if system administrator found out some organization's secrets via employee's emails? And there is a possibility that he/she might trade those secrets to competitors or even he/she might resign from current organization and join with competitor for higher salary. This is a big concern for any organization whether to give permission for system administrator to keep track other's emails because there will be a risk still remain of trading organization secrets.
Most of every organization always arguing about should they need to ban social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter because employees are tending to surf social network websites during work hours. Due to this factor, organizations are loosing plenty of working hours and yet again this may lead to less productivity. A survey conducted by Philip Wicks, consultant at Morse, the IT services and technology founded out employees are using Facebook and Twitter for personal usage during working hours averagely 40 minutes per week. (Reference 4) Same survey shows that British economy losses more than GBP1.38 billions per year only because of Twitter. (Reference 5) After referring above example we can get a clear view how social networking websites are effecting to overall economy around the world. Recently in USA, survey was conducted using 1400 CIO's from companies with 100 + employees based on telephone interviews and following results were gained. (Reference 6)
54% companies banned social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.19% allow access to social networking websites for business purposes only.16% limited access for personal use.10% allow access to social sites for any type of personal use.
Majority of companies who participated to this survey banned social network usage within working environment. After studying all above facts, director in this case study has fair reason to inform system administrator to monitor employee's activities.
But in employees point of view major ethical issues are arising and latest researches reveals that organizations which block social networking websites rapidly decrease their productivity. Productivity doesn't mean the numbers of hour employees are working. Efficiency of the employees is the main factor which directly effects to the productivity. Employees can't work all day, they need break and it's an employee right. Modern era employees' usually surfing social websites above mentioned when they having leisure time to reduce their stress level. But what if system administrator blocks those websites? For surely stress level of employees will increase leaps and bounds and they wont be able to work with high efficiency, might not committed to their work and worse case scenario they might even leave the organization.
James Norrie, the associate dean and professor at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of management clearly mentioned that "banning social networking is one of the biggest mistake businesses can do to them selves". (Reference 7)
After referring above facts there is a doubt that monitoring or blocking social network websites by system administrator is not the best solution available.
When employees downloading music while they are at work, both ethical issues and legal issues are violating because to download music employees are using bandwidth which is allocate to do official matters. Definitely speed of the network will reduce due to unwanted network traffic and which leads to low productivity.
Many internet users are downloading music illegally. To over come or minimize illegal downloads, music industry seeking the help from lawsuits. Good example for prove this fact is that Joel Tenenbaum, Boston university graduate student, was guilty for downloading and sharing music illegally and charged $645,000. (Reference 8) So what if music downloads by employees also illegal? There is a big possibility that music companies might take legal action against the organization because network and the computers own by organization and hard to point the finger out for a one particular employee because most of the employees are downloading music illegally.
Other fact is that normally internet users are downloading music using peer to peer (P2P) software tools like LimeWire, Bittorrent, and BearShare. Software like this allows numerous viruses, trogons, Malware and they might effects to Computers physically and might corrupt data inside computers. Due to this fact organization unnecessary need to spend big amount of money for virus guards, firewalls, and defenders to protect data and at the same time organization needs to spend money for repair computers if computers get physically damage.
Concerning above facts I am totally agree with the organization director because if system administrator monitor, block above P2P software tools or minimize the bandwidth there wont be any major ethical or legal issues arise from employee's point of view and organization can minimize misuse of the bandwidth.
Overall I can conclude that employer has a fair reason to ask from system administrator to monitor employees' activities without knowing them for some extent. But I personally do believe that organization's management doesn't have a good bond with employees because if there is a solid relationship between employer and employee, director might not ask to spy employee's activities. So overcome all difficulties management need to focus how to improve relationship with employees.