Internet Laws at Work

Granting employees internet access is often necessary in order to complete business-related tasks efficiently.  With the internet serving as such a valuable tool to the workforce, some companies are finding that they need to restructure their acceptable use agreements to ensure that employee internet usage and company policy are well aligned. The following PBS Idea Channel video explains more about Three Laws of The Internet:

Many people admit that they go online for non-work-related reasons and that this sort of internet usage is acceptable during business hours. As can be expected, acceptable use policies tend to prohibit this sort of internet activity, and companies will often restrict computers with company-generated IP addresses from accessing popular social websites.

The key to promoting appropriate and efficient business internet usage is to make the company policies transparent while imposing the fewest number of restrictions possible to ensure that employee productivity and work quality are not sacrificed.

We have the Copyright Act that is criminalizing piracy and attempts to bypass or infringe ant anti-piracy software protection. This is slightly different than the workfloor issues but also here, we not only talk about illegality, but also about the distribution, development, cracking, or hacking programs which are also punishable offenses. This legislation was introduced to cover the legal bases required to eliminate or at least reduce software piracy.

Legal Internet Usage While on the Job

Privacy rights protecting employees under the current internet technology laws are incredibly limited. State and Federal courts find in favor of the employer in nearly every case, always justifying such a ruling by stating that internet and email usage of an employee while on the clock is technically the property of the employer.

This is especially true when this activity is conducting using company equipment. Internet technology law allows companies to monitor employee internet usage, screen ingoing and outgoing emails, and block employee access to websites from company computers. Employees are made aware of these policies when hired, and there is typically an acceptable internet usage clause as well as an Intellectual Property clause included in employee contracts.

Employee Monitoring and Privacy Issues

The most common restrictions created by company internet usage policies determine what websites employees may access while on the job. Social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace are commonly blocked to keep employees from spending time updating personal profiles or chatting with friends when they should be working.  Other restrictions may prohibit employees from reading or responding to personal e-mails. Both ingoing and outgoing emails to and from the work e-mail address qualify as company property, even if the recipient was the only intended audience.

For this reason, it is highly recommended that employees reserve personal e-mail messages, photos, and forwards for personal e-mail addresses. Additionally, companies may monitor internet activity and flag employees who log excessive online hours.  This sort of monitoring is done silently, so it is important for individual employees to know what is expected of them in order to avoid any behavior that may jeopardize their position within the company.

Legal Assistance

While it may seem that Internet laws at work are all designed to favor the company or business, employee rights are also protected. Do not hesitate to seek professional legal assistance if your internet usage at work is ever questioned. Review your company policies, minimize your internet usage, and make reasonable decisions in order to protect your privacy as well as your job.