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Bosses on the prowl for risque pics

Study finds that almost all big U.S. companies are watching out for naughty online images--and that a fair number lead to dismissals.

Beware, those of you who sometimes sneak off in cyberspace to look at naughty pictures.

Ninety percent of the largest U.S. companies have procedures in place in case inappropriate or illicit images are discovered in the work place, and 50 percent have had to use these procedures for incidents in the past year, according to a study released Friday.

The report, sponsored by software company PixAlert and conducted by research firm Delta Consulting, also found that when businesses pursued an investigation, 44 percent of cases resulted in a dismissal from the company.

The study is the latest to indicate that companies are keeping close track of employees in the work place. A report released earlier this month found that 63 percent of corporations with 1,000 or more workers either employ or plan to employ staff to read or otherwise analyze outbound e-mail. And according to a study earlier this year, the number of companies that monitor the amount of time employees spend on the phone and track the numbers called has jumped to 51 percent, up from 9 percent in 2001.

Though liability and regulatory issues may be convincing companies to peek in on their employees, such surveillance raises privacy concerns. Employers can monitor workers to a greater degree these days, thanks to newer technologies such as keystroke-logging software and satellite global positioning systems that can track a cell phone user's whereabouts.

The Delta Consulting-PixAlert report was designed to cover a cross-section of corporations that comprise the country's top 500 companies. Senior managers responsible for computer usage policies participated in the survey. A sample of 50 executives was interviewed.