If you work do you think you have a right to privacy at your workplace? What can your employer find out about you and your work? You might be surprised by the answers employers can (and most often do) among other things read your e-mail (even those marked personal or confidential) tap your phone and monitor your computer work. And these actions aren’t all that uncommon. Today, nearly 80 percent of all businesses surveyed by the American Management association indicate they monitor employees.
Many Indian companies also have a policy for checking Internet usage and time at the workplace. For instance, many IT and ITES (IT enabled services) companies have Corporate Resource Use Policies, which contain clauses like the use of the net is a privilege and may be revoked at any time, the mail id will be used for business mails and e-mail should not be as a form of entertainment or to solicit any private business or cause. Many companies also monitor phones calls made by employees.
Why do managers feel they must monitor what employees are doing? a big reason is that employees are hired to work not to surf the Web checking stock prices, or shopping for presents for family or friends. Recreational on the job Web surfing has been said to cost billions in wasted computer resources and lost work productivity annually. That’s a significant crust to businesses.
Another reason that managers monitor employees e-mail and computer usage is that they don’t want to risk being sued for creating a hostile workplace environment because of an offensive message or inappropriate images displayed on a coworker’s computer. Establishing what actually happened can help managers react quickly. Consider what happened at Chevron. It settled a sexual harassment lawsuit for $2.2 million because offensive e-mails – like 25 reasons why beer is better than women were readily circulated on the company’s e-mail system. Organizations such as Citigroup and Morgan Stanley Dean Writer have also taken to court by employees for racist e-mail proliferating on their systems. As one researcher pointed out, federal law views a company’s e-mail no differently than if offensive materials were circulated on a company’s letterhead.
Finally, managers want to ensure that company secrets aren’t being leaked. Although protecting intellectual property is important for all businesses, it’s especially important in high tech industries. Managers need to be certain that employees are not even inadvertently passing along information to others who could use that information to harm the company.
The BPO industry in India has seen at least two high profile cases where there have been serious breaches of confidential data – the Pune fraud where unscrupulous call center employees used credit card numbers to steal cash from the counts of some Citibank customers, and the Delhi call center where a sting operation revealed a call center employee who sold secret information on 1,000 British bank customers. This has led to a huge beefing up of security measures at BPOs, especially those with sensitive foreign clients. At many calls centers outgoing mail traffic is monitored regularly. E-mail access is provided on a limited basis. The majority of the staff cannot send e-mail s outside the local network, but are provided separate browsing zones outside the working area where employees can use kiosks to access the Internet. Employees are not allowed to take camera phones and cell phones to the work floor and PCs have inactive removable media drives with no browsing facilities.
The consequences of inappropriate workplace computer usage also can be serious for employees and companies. For instance shortly before Christmas in 1999, 23 workers at a New York Times administrative center in Norfolk Virginia were fired and a number of other employees were reprimanded for violating the company’s policy that prohibits using the corporate e-mail system to create forward or display any offensive or disruptive messages, including photographs and audio material. A number of Xerox employees were dismissed for spending as much as eight hours day browsing rated e-shopping. At two sites during work hours Two executives at Salomon Smith Barney were fired after a routine check of corporate e-mail turned up pornographic material. And Lockheed Martin’s e-mail system crashed for six hours after an employee sent 60,000 coworkers an e-mail (asking them to respond back using an attached e-receipt) about a national prayer day, Because Lockheed depends heavily on its internal e-mail communication system, this crash cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.