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Monitoring at work

by paul_sweb / November 19, 2012 5:56 AM PST

I'd be interested to hear opinions on this one.

I work for an employer with a, shall we say, idiotic head of IT. I believe that he is dialing into our computers, while we are using them and basically watching what we're doing as we're doing it.

I'm fairly certain this is borderline legal, but I'd be interested to hear what the consensus is on the morality of this and if we can take any steps to stop this!

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Well discussed and no different than cameras in work areas.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 19, 2012 6:18 AM PST
In reply to: Monitoring at work

You're on the job so why would there be anything to worry about? Many folk get burned or fired for using company time or resources so this one is too easy.

You could quit?
Bob

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It's a matter of degrees...
by paul_sweb / November 19, 2012 6:29 AM PST

Put it this way, if somebody is sitting on your computer, watching without telling you, it's the equivalent of having a camera pointing at you all day, including during your break or lunch when I can legitimately check my email. I have a position of responsibility and trust, and tend to believe that mutual trust and respect leads to a much more productive working environment.

Personally, I think if somebody is going to do this, s/he should give you a call first to say they are dialing in and why. It's basic professional courtesy.

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Courtesy?
by Roger NC / November 19, 2012 6:41 AM PST

Shucks, we've had the IT department to take over computers remotely that we were actively using for company work. They can see the desktop, they know where the computer is located, they can see it's in use, and they didn't bother to call.

Had one guy that decided that when the mouse took off on it's own and wouldn't respond to the local user, the computer would need to be rebooted, even if it took pulling the plug and then restarting it.

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What if it was before computers
by James Denison / November 21, 2012 11:05 AM PST
In reply to: Courtesy?

and your job was making recordings in a ledger, such as for accounting? Can your boss come take a look over your shoulder, or would that be out of line? How long do you think that employee would be working there if he objected? How long should they let such employee work there? Work is work, a job is a job, your time is away from there.

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in the post you replied to
by Roger NC / November 21, 2012 10:17 PM PST

I referred to a lack of courtesy by IT departments. The example I gave IT interruped a technician doing legitimate company work without consideration of his time or how checking to see how urgent he needed to complete what he was doing. The time you're at work belonging to the company should have nothing to do with respect and courtesy. I know you regard workers as slaves while they're on the clock, but it shouldn't be so.

Abover that I pointed out that legally anything you do on company time and/or equipment was the business of the company. Partly it's there business just because it's their equipment and time. The company can also be held legally responsible for what you do use their equipment, and sometimes what you do while on their time.

My last job we had time off the clock for lunch. You didn't have to bother to punch out if you ate on site, they automatically adjusted for the time off. However, you were required to punch out if you even drove across the road to get a hamburger. Why? because if you had a wreak and time records showed you were on the clock it might end up involving the company in the responsibility for the wreak.

When you're at work you are suppose to be "on the job". You have a responsibiity even during your breaks. If you have lunch off the clock you should have a little more privacy and leeway, but that doesn't necessarily mean free use of the company equipment. That depends on company guidelines.

Your example the boss certainly has the right to check your work. Interrupting your work may be against the company interest depending on why he interrupted it and may be wrong.

The IT guy commenting on someone's purchase may have been just making a point, if rather snidely, about the employee misusing company equipment. Technically he should have reported it and the employees immediate supervisor deal with it if the employee was violating company policy. His actions can make you wonder if he is just being a busy body and spending more time snooping than doing his job.

A company owns your time at work, but inspite of some beliefs to the contrary, not your soul.

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The IT guy was "out of line" on what he did
by James Denison / November 22, 2012 1:04 AM PST

If he had a problem with the use of the computer, it was his responsibility to contact the person's supervisor instead.

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(NT) agreed
by Roger NC / November 22, 2012 9:05 AM PST
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Court rulings in the past
by Roger NC / November 19, 2012 6:38 AM PST
In reply to: Monitoring at work

it's the company's equipment, they're responsible for anything you may do on it, they have the right to access everything you do on it including but not limited to web browsing, email, shopping, etc. Now I don't know if there has been a trial case of accessing a computer web cam and physically watching you, not your computer work or not. Cameras are used, but I'm not sure about that use would necessarily be included. That might be considered unknown survillance and possibly have some legal grey areas.

I'll grant your IT guy monitoring live time all the time would be rather unusual, and even creepy, but as long as he does it in connection with his job, it's legal. However, if the IT guy used any information gathered that way other than reporting problems to HR, his *** is the one that should and could be in a sling.

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An instance of monitoring, for example
by paul_sweb / November 19, 2012 6:42 AM PST

A colleague was on her break and using the work computer to buy a dress online.

There's nothing against doing so in the company rules, as long as you're on your lunch or break (although we don't have a written policy on internet use).

A few minutes later she gets an email from the IT guy. It says "Nice dress".

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Now that could be considered harassment
by Roger NC / November 19, 2012 6:44 AM PST

or contributing to an uncomfortable work enviornment, under some of the more extreme sexual harassment advocate guides.

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Agreed
by Josh K / November 19, 2012 8:00 AM PST

Paul --- it isn't really "your" computer. My employer has rules about personal use as well, but in our case as long as we're reasonable about it, nobody bothers us. There are sites that are blocked due to content/security concerns, e.g. if someone was stupid enough to want to look at porn at work s/he wouldn't be able to, but otherwise it's pretty much between us and our immediate managers whether we're abusing our Internet access.

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But it was still the company's equipment
by Roger NC / November 19, 2012 6:44 AM PST

they have the right to monitor it's use, before and after hours and during breaks.

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True...
by paul_sweb / November 19, 2012 6:49 AM PST

I suppose I am just very unused to this level of monitoring. I've worked in large corporate structures before with clearly defined internet guidelines, but there was still a degree of flexibility and trust. The attitude was basically "sure, you can go onto Amazon and the news sites, but don't take the p*ss and don't let your work suffer" which was accepted by all.

The attitude here appears to be Big Brother Is Watching!

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No written policy on personal internet use?
by Steven Haninger / November 19, 2012 8:08 AM PST

Someone writing policy missed something. Personal use of company property is either conditionally granted or it's forbidden. There can even be tax ramifications when companies allow personal use of assets and that includes technology type devices, company issued cell phones, etc. Generally this is handled by adding some impugned value to your pay stub and you pay tax on that. I'd not want to say that lack of having a policy against something implies that it's perfectly OK.

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Reminds me of new cell phone policy
by Roger NC / November 19, 2012 9:47 AM PST

a few years ago.

They use to officially discourage use even if they didn't forbid having one. Then after they pretty much gave all the salary people one and required them to carry it on and off the job, they ignored phone use.

After some problems, they announced a review of policy. A few weeks later one came out, so vague that I never figured out what the restrictions were. I think the intent was that if you were using the cell phone and were distracted causing downtime or damage, then you'd be in violation of the policy.

Internet use at the site is all over the place. For a while all new hires were automatically cleared for internet access, but people hired before that day don't unless your supervisor applies for your clearance. How crazy is that?

There is a limited white list for those that aren't cleared for internet use, NOAA, all our benefit pages of course, the local creditunion associated with employees, etc. There are blacklisted sites for those that do have internet clearance, but it doesn't seem that restrictive.

A mealy mouth policy allows it to be interpret as desired when an unforeseen circumstance comes up. It also makes it easier to ignore something if the manager in charge wants to when it involves employees he gives more slack to anyway. And anyone honest knows that unofficial prilveged status exists.

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If you want internet privacy at work
by James Denison / November 21, 2012 11:08 AM PST

bring in your own laptop if they allow and use https only between sites. Not all sites have https for general access, only for pages involving transfer of payment information. Reason? Encryption increases bandwidth usage, ergo cost increase.

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Businesses also use VPNs and have proxy servers
by Steven Haninger / November 21, 2012 6:51 PM PST

There is no privacy and privacy cannot be expected. It is one of the jobs of IT to protect the company from both the inside and outside. Employees using company assets should expect that they may be watched while using them.

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True
by Roger NC / November 21, 2012 10:31 PM PST

but it seems some IT go way beyond their particular job in monitoring activites, basically enjoying spying on people. Know of one case an IT made a nasty remark to someone about the use of their computer. He didn't know it was his boss on the workers computer at the time.

IT people are suppose to report any discovered misuse of company equipment. They're not gernerally in charge of reprimanding individuals themselves. It's amazing though, they seem like Congress, the same rules don't apply to themselves.

As an electrician I was sent to the computer center once to move some telephone jacks. It was one of those floors that are 2x2 foot panels you remove to access wiring underneath. Guess what we found under 3 desks under the floor? external modems so the IT guy could access the internet without going through the company server. This also bypassed the company firewall and though that computer exposed the network to invasions the firewall should stop.

Now of course web is so graphic modems are almost useless. But it's a nice example of how the enforcers rarely apply the rules to themselves. That applies to a lot more than IT, it applies to probably half the people in charge anywhere.

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Shall we presume that, as an outside contractor,
by Steven Haninger / November 21, 2012 10:41 PM PST
In reply to: True

you reported the finding to your contact person so that a potential breach of security could be addressed? Wink

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Wasnt outside, worked for the company
by Roger NC / November 21, 2012 11:13 PM PST

and when mentioned it, it was shrugged off.

The case of the guy unknowingly insulting his boss was at a previous job and I heard about it after the fact. Of course, that guy got telling off by his boss but that was all.

The modem thing was right after I started this job. Things were pretty lax about such things back then, indeed, I often surprised at what was ignored, both in regards to hourly and salaried employees. As people have retired, company split and merged with new management and new bosses things have changed some. It was pretty much a good old boy place still when I started there.

Things have changed some with the times, it's probably still more relaxed than a lot of places.

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? I thought I made it clear
by Roger NC / November 21, 2012 10:22 PM PST

that it is generally recognize on company equipment you have no expectation to privacy anyway.

I see people at work using laptops, connected tablets, and smart phones, often to an excess that makes me believe they could be dangerous, but I'm not their supervisor and I've not seen an effort to hide the use so evidently its accepted.

In the post you replied to I was pointing out how inconsistent and sometimes actually incoherent company guidelines actually are. A bit unfair wouldn't you say?

Oh wait, there is no fairness required in treatment of employees, I forgot who I was talking to.

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If the person is using private networking devices
by James Denison / November 22, 2012 1:10 AM PST

then they should not have any settings on them to directly access workgroups on the LAN. If they are using an open wireless set to do AP isolation, I see no problem with that and privacy assumption from such provision should be the standard there. That would be similar to open access provided at places like McDonald's which offer such service. Wireless access is a different situation than being directly plugged into the office LAN. Some people also access internet at work through their own access across cellphones.

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Work environments will often offer guest access
by Steven Haninger / November 22, 2012 1:20 AM PST

This can be by using VLAN capable switches to provide internet only and would be used by clients or potential clients of that business who either brought laptops with them or used public terminals.

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We're trying to get VPN for a company
by Roger NC / November 22, 2012 9:23 AM PST

that provides and helps with our emisson monitoring equipment, they have to use a modem on poor phone lines to access the computer to help with trouble shooting or program modification.

It was all proposed over a month ago. A week ago someone followed up the emails and asked if it had been set up. The so call co-ordinator of IT (almost all of it farmed out now) said he didn't know the status he would check.

He just hadn't bothered. He and everyone else that would be involved in ok'ing and setting it up were included on the emails, several of them, a month ago. Indifference to things not wanted by high management seems to be a oft shared condition of IT. I reported a problem with one desktop directly to the tech once while he was replacing the monitor. His response wasn't even to file a work ticket on it. His response was that was schedule to be replace (they have a rotation schedule for updating) next year. I had just asked that the drive partitions be rearranged so that there was room for the swap file on C. Drive D partition was 75% empty while C was 80% full. He left without doing anything. I can't move the swap file or partitions bcause I don't have administration rights. So I click on a program I use to record enviornmental data and wait a minute or two for it to open. I click on trending software to check data and the same.

I know personal experience isn't necessarily proof of any widespread disease, but how many people have you heard complain about IT attitudes?

Anyone remember Saturday night live Nick the computer guy? Parody yes, but familar to most.

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That's when
by James Denison / November 22, 2012 2:54 PM PST

you pop a Live CD with a version of Linux into the CD drive, or a USB thumbdrive, and set the BIOS to boot to it and have some fun. Wink

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Shucks, some of our computers
by Roger NC / November 22, 2012 10:40 PM PST
In reply to: That's when

the cd drive doesn't even work anymore.I have backup tape drives that don't work, and there is no other backup. Those machines haven't even been connected to either the business or control networks because they don't want to spend the money to run fiberoptic to them. They're suppose to be replaced this year, been postponed over and over since March. If you're familar with industry workplace at all, you know what the chances are of getting anything done in the 4th quarter than can be postponed. I have about as good a chance of winning the lottery, depending on who you are of course.We're even have trouble getting normal maintenance parts ordered, they drag their feet on that even. Yet we have to keep records with the dates the maintenance is done with or without the parts on time.

Got a couple of NT still left, usb physically there, but no drivers for it. The ones I was talking about they just told me were on next years rotation list are probably the early XP cycle time wise.

And I think they even have the bios locked to admin only passwords. Seems like someone tried that once. Or maybe it wasn't locked, because as I recall he crashed the system. Of course, when someone else found it dead no one had any idea what happened.

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Stuff is so cheap now
by James Denison / November 23, 2012 12:26 AM PST

I just ordered and received 2 new cases for $20 each, including postage. Put an entire system in one this week, total cost under $150 with 160GB HD and a DVDRW. Hard drives of 500 GB new for under $60. DDR1 RAM can be had for under $10 per GB. I saw Kingston memory for DDR3 with 2GB chips about $14 each after shipping. Hard drive prices are still a bit higher now due to the flood last year and only 3 big producers, limiting competition, but the cost per GB is lower than a couple years ago. I've seen Sempron socket 754 chips at 1.6Ghz completely new, which is fine for office work, on sale for $15 or less including shipping. Motherboards from the best makers, ASUS, Gigabyte, and budget Biostar can be had completely new for under $60, entirely sufficient for office computers. Processor prices have them worried? It's an office computer, go with a 2.8 Ghz Sempron for AM3 motherboard, under $40 including shipping.

That's all new stuff. Priced any "used" or "refurbished" things for repairs lately? Older Celeron and AMD socket 462 boards in an office? Processors are under $5 for those, and replacement memory chips are about same price for every half gig, maybe a bit more to $7.

Heck, there's even combo units under $60 brand new that can be had for an office computer that will make whoever used a Celeron type the happiest person in the office, includes embedded VGA, HDMI, sound, LAN, and runs cool on a VIA processor at 800 Mhz bus speed, clock multiple of 2 for 1.6 Ghz speed. Fast enough for office, saves electricity both in time computer is being on and used, and lower heat output saving on cooling costs for office area, when you consider many current office computers put out the same heat of a 150w incandescent light bulb.

There's no excuse for an IT person not being able to cheaply repair and even upgrade existing hardware other than his laziness or the company's short sightedness and some of that blame still falls on the IT department for not showing the small cost of upgrades and repairs and how that positively affects performance, and employee moral.

Getting down off soapbox, walking to next corner, etc.

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regarding upgrades
by Roger NC / November 23, 2012 1:21 AM PST

You forget or don't realize how much businesses or at least some industries don't plan for more than about 5 quarters now.

It's been getting more and more that way in my experience since 2000 or before. The goal is posting the current best returns or stock increases, not long term as in 20 or 30 years planning.

Why? because people buy and sell stock in a less than 2 year cycle rather than a 20 year cycle. People use to buy railroad or steel stock to hold for retirement. After things changed and no company was viewed as pernament investment, companies changed their planning to woo short term investors rather than long term.

At least that seems to be the current state of affairs. Now I am in the paper industry and it's in a decline and facing more world wide production than in the past.

IT is basicaly contracted out, with just one maybe two people actually employed by the company as co-ordinators. Some computers get updated every couple of years, upper managment again. Operator level stuff is the next to the last area of update, last area of update is maintenance. IT staff don't do anything except what they're contracted to do, which is basically to respond to trouble "tickets" put in corporation wide an tricked back to the local contractor and co-ordinator.

Small cost and avoiding more future cost really isn't considered at the desktop computer level. Control equipment is postponed again and again because it's old enough that once you start you have to go huge, our old computer boxes running VMS software have compatibility problems with anything current, so it's difficult to do a piecemeal update.

As long as it will run, they don't replace it. We still have several CRT monitors. They recently still bought computers without dvd's because that was a standard but optional in their DELL contract pricing. And I think they viewed DVD as being for gaming or video discs. I know 20 years ago some companies bought computers without CD players because they thought that was for games and not needed for work computers. Then in less than 5 years they had to install cd because that was what new software came on if you didn't install it over the network.

I can't remember what Pentium the old computer I use a lot is, but it is single core model. And actually for what I use that one, that would be fine if it had more memory and more harddrive to speed it up a bit. Also, I think it probably still has an older network card that can't use the full speed of the company network.

So blame managment, since anything over about $500 has to be approved by at least 2 levels and anything over $1000 by 3 levels. Then a little above that, not sure where, it takes either the mill manager, a committee decision, or corporate approval.

Business/industry now is more than ever about squeezing rather than expanding or updating for the future.

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17" monitors, used but working fine
by James Denison / November 23, 2012 2:20 AM PST

I pick them up here and at a place near Baltimore for $20-25. The problem with monitors is you are confined to local used supplier or the cost to ship makes it not worth it, and CRT's aren't wanted at all.

Use some of those links I supplied in other message and build yourself a decent computer for low cost.

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Re computers at low price
by Roger NC / November 23, 2012 3:15 AM PST

It works for the home hobbyist, or maybe a small computer shop.

However industry always has a "preferred provider", someone they make a national deal with by supposely the lowest cost bid. Maybe so nationally, but I've seen where a national corporation bought out a smaller company, and we had to buy from the preferred provider our supplies we had been getting in town cheaper.

I don't know about today, but at one time it seemed DELL had a commanding share of those preferred provider contracts. I don't know if there is any other brand Desktop or Laptop Windows computer at work.

Of course, a lot of the process computers are different, because they were chosen by whoeve had the contract instal lthe entire system.

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