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Monitor tracks real-time Web usage

Attention, networked employees: Your boss may be watching your Web surfing habits right now.

Attention, networked employees: Your boss may be watching your Web surfing habits right now.

On Technology today announced a visual monitor that tracks and displays staff Internet usage within organizations in real time.

The product is another example of software that tackles a growing problem in the workplace: employees surfing to sites that distract them from their jobs. Last month, On Technology released a survey that said almost 100 companies contacted reported their workers were accessing sexually explicit Web sites.

Other sites visited regularly include sports (one in six organizations) and music (one in seven), according to the company. Other surveys have reached similar conclusions. A Nielsen Media Research survey released last year said the Penthouse Web site was a favorite among employees of some Fortune 500 companies, along with NASA.

"With the new real-time monitor, On Guard Internet Manager allows administrators to create a 'suspect dictionary' that containing keywords such as 'nude,' 'xxx,' or 'sports,'" the company said in a statement. "Whenever a user attempts to access an URL containing one of those keywords, the monitor will automatically create an audible alert on the administrative console and display the URL and associated username in a specified color (red, for example)."

The site administrator can them access the site by clicking on the displayed URL "in order to determine whether it is in fact an appropriate destination," as On Technology puts it.

Companies increasingly are drafting policies that clearly state what is considered improper Web surfing. In some cases, the surfing of sexually explicit Web sites has cost employees their jobs.

"Because of the enormous amount of information on the Web, some of which is sexually explicit, various entities have begun to build systems intended to enable individuals or companies to control what information may be accessed," according to a report released last year, "Electronic Interaction in the Marketplace."

"Employers must be aware of the potential privacy rights of their employees," it added. "One way to manage the many risks and hazards presented is to maintain a formal policy." The increased use of email and the Internet bring with it a number of risks and hazards for employers.