Workplace Surveillance Essay

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Pages: 8

Workplace Surveillance and Employee Privacy

Abstract

Businesses face rising liability with regard to employee use of electronic resources. To alleviate the risk of liability, companies must develop and implement a computer use policy outlining appropriate use of organizational electronic resources. This paper examines critical facets of computer use policies, clearly explaining the basis for the policy, applying the policy to all employees as well as all levels of the organization, and indicative of zero tolerance for harassing or discriminating communications. The final result of this paper will identify the implications of computer usage policy.

Introduction Employee surveillance and email monitoring in the workplace present a number of conflicting issues regarding an employer’s need to protect its property and itself against liability and employee’s right to privacy (Adams, Scheuing & Feeley, 2000). Do private businesses have the right to monitor employee communications? Rational business decision dictates it’s legally and ethically functional for the employer to produce a written workplace privacy policy. This should include monitoring of computer use, and the same time providing sufficient protections for employee privacy rights. This paper will provide guidelines for formulating a suitable computer-use policy. It will also identify the implications of such a policy.

Privacy and Privacy Regulation
Privacy has become an enormously significant part of American society after the aggressions of September 11, 2001. Existing fears over terrorism and homeland security have led to laws encouraging the decline of civil liberties and produce a society where everyone is continually under close watch of some kind. The Patriot Act enacted shortly after the terrorist attacks in 2001. This Act gives the government far-reaching power to look into a person’s personal life and communication at any rate of the medium used for the interactions (Sproule, 2002).
Privacy is defined as freedom from unauthorized intrusion.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (EPCA) of 1986 prohibits the interception and disclosure of wire, oral, and electronic communications. It also protects stored wire, transactional, and electronic communications from being disclosed without permission. There are three exceptions to the ECPA that give employers a means of bypassing personal privacy rights. The “business exception,” allows a company to capture communication, if done in the regular course of business and using a capable device. The “consent” exception, states a company may monitor communication if at least one individual consents to the interception. Finally, the “service provider” exception states that a company providing electronic communications service may recover information maintained on that person’s system in order to guard the employer’s property rights. ECPA is the foundation upon which right to privacy cases regarding electronic communications in the workplace are judged.

Methods of Surveillance
Organizations should cautiously consider electronically monitor employee e-mails and Internet activities. There are delicate issues of trust and loyalty that should be attended to in order to safeguard the culture of the organization. Monitoring requires appropriate development, clear policies, and comprehensive procedures (Arendt, 2004). Both adversary and supporters of monitoring concur that organizations need comprehensible and definitive policies on electronic surveillance. These policies should be regularly and clearly communicated to employees. Employees should undergo formal training on e-mail and Internet policies, proper usage, and conduct Steps must be taken by managers and IT Departments alike to alleviate the risk involved in allowing employees unregulated access to the Internet and company email systems.
Email Monitoring
Supporters for e-mail monitoring maintain that employers must take proactive steps to…