Wednesday, February 16

Conduct Investigations on Employees Suspected of Inappropriate Activity

I don't know why they decided this was relevant to me, these PR folks, but this is definitely the junk e-mail of the week so far here on the editorial assignment desk:
Now, at the touch of a button, [Product X] can be remotely configured and installed FROM any computer on the network TO any computer on the network, and the recordings can be viewed from any PC on the network. With [Product X], you will have a complete record of your employees' PC and Internet activity. [Product X] automatically captures and lets you review your employees': emails sent and received, chat conversations and instant messages, files downloaded, web sites visited, applications launched and keystrokes typed. In addition, by taking screen snapshots, [Product X] creates the equivalent of a digital surveillance tape so that you can see the exact sequence of everything your employees are doing on the computer. Immediate email alerts notify you whenever certain words (and phrases) you specify are typed by the user or are contained in an email, chat, instant message or a web site. ([Product X]'s email recording is so comprehensive that it covers Outlook, Exchange, AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo and any SMTP/POP3-based architecture.) The primary uses for [Product X] are to:
  1. Conduct Investigations on Employees Suspected of Inappropriate Activity
  2. Increase Employee Productivity by Reducing Frivolous and Inappropriate Activity
  3. Monitor Ongoing Employee Performance and PC Proficiency
  4. Eliminate Leaking of Confidential Information
  5. Assist Help Desk Staff with PC Recovery
  6. Enforce PC and Internet Acceptable Use Policies

Sounds like the political agenda of the current administration in Washington.

You would think that at a newsgathering organization, you would want your employees to be able to go just about anywhere online. Of course, my company was once part of a larger company with some fiduciary relationships, so I suppose that was why the censorware was so Stalinistic. When I wanted to find a serious research article on straight-through processing in online gambling, I was unable to retrieve it because the unsophisticated censorware, as far as I can tell, simply blocked my access to sites with "gambling" as a <meta> keyword. (Note to terrorist bombers: exclude "terrorist" and "bomb" from your metadata. Try "puppies" and "bunnies" instead.) As if thinking about the activity were tantamount to doing it.

So, though I was wondering if I could boot my machine from a USB pen drive with Linux and crypto on it and cruise around, now I'm very, very afraid. Ooh, the guys in IT might be watching! Poor guys, they have their hands full keeping the toasters we have running Win3.1.

While it's true that you should conduct yourself with awareness that you're in public when you're at work, don't you think monitoring what I IM to my wife is tantamount to photographing me in the can? Haven't you ever been in the middle of writing something and vented some frustration by typing "my boss is a weenie" or "this job sucks" and then backspacing over it? Keystroke monitoring will reveal even what you have decided not to write.

Resolved: All uses of the Internet are acceptable until proven otherwise. Argue among yourselves. I did have a coworker on the late shift in the computer center of a downtown lawfirm who wound up getting arrested at the end of his shift for cyberstalking some poor girl. Very bad clams: NYPD marching in and busting the guy while a senior partner was in there.

I, meanwhile, got booted from one of my first NY jobs for getting around the policy denying use of the Web to employees like me, using a service that allowed you to do an HTTP request to the server via e-mail, and would e-mail you back the contents of the URL. I thought that was cool, and frankly, it was within the letter of the company policy. But the IT guys had no sense of irony.

I can't help it: I'm a curious George, though I'm keeping out of mischief now.

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