Spying in the workplace

An article in The Age recently spoke about the potential changes in the law in Victoria that will impact both IT and HR. This comes on the back of announcements made by the NSW Attorney-General in late March that outlawed employers spying on workers email messages.

Although just because you know that you are being watched won’t stop some people from doing things they really should not. Michael Soden, ex-group chief executive of Bank of Ireland found out, even after signing off on the policies he got caught surfing porn on his work computer.

Although I do not know in detail how spam filters, internet proxy servers and mirroring what I do know is these types of tools are in use by IT departments in Australia and in the wrong hands are spyware. My concerns are also held by the MD of SurfControl Charles Heunemann who states “there were concerns that filtering software could be used by companies to spy on workers”. IT departments might need to declare to all employees the complete capabilities of all technology they install, and not just eh features they choose to use.

These changes will probably make employers in general nervous, an article from the SMH in December 2003 stated that 80 of employers use high tech equipment to spy on their workers.

Most organisations now have policies of appropriate usage of email and the internet, those that don’t really should to ensure they do not end up on the wrong end of a “wrongful dismissal” case.

There is going to be a balance between organisations like SurfControl and VeriSign, who’s new service will be protect companies from phishing, providing their services to help make the internet a better place and falling into the trap of spying on workers.