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Most firms report workplace porn

Three-fourths of 100 companies surveyed report that workers view sexually explicit Web sites.

A new survey released today says almost three-fourths of 100 companies contacted reported that their workers were accessing sexually explicit Web sites.

But there's a catch: The survey was conducted by On Technology, which seeks to sell software to monitor Web surfers at worried workplaces.

Yet there is ample evidence that adult Web sites are distracting workers from their duties. A survey by Nielsen Media Research released last year showed that the Penthouse Web site was a favorite among employees of companies including Apple Computer, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. Also on the list was NASA.

On Technology solicited responses from corporate, government, and educational institutions that were using a free trial version of its On Guard Internet Manager software. The software monitors Web activity on networks and compiles results in a searchable database.

"There is a perception with the Internet that it's free and people should be able to do whatever they want with it," said On director of product marketing Phil Neray. "But there are real costs to a company."

These costs include loss of productivity, the costs of maintaining or upgrading a network overtaxed by inappropriate use, and the threat of lawsuits, according to Neray.

There can also be costs to employees--like their jobs. According to a 1996 article in the New York Times, Compaq Computer dismissed workers for surfing sexually explicit Web sites.

The On Technology study also reported other nonwork-related Internet use, including visits to sports and entertainment sites. The percentage of companies reporting this kind of activity was much lower than the 72 percent reporting visits to sex sites.

Neray noted that a company often reduces the amount of inappropriate Web activity by announcing that monitoring software is in place. He also recommended that companies state a clear policy on improper usage. On also posts a template for designing such a policy.