Digital map of Web to track employees

Net Nanny blocks vatican.org on moral grounds

A Scottish company claims to be the first to have created a digital map of the dark side of the Web that will track employees' use of the Internet.

Net Intelligence was launched Thursday as an alternative to current surveillance packages that block or filter Internet use at work.

Actis Technology insists that the software is 100 percent accurate. The system uses electronic digital fingerprints to detect when employees are making inappropriate use of the Internet in company time. Employers can customise the software to set tolerance levels on the different categories of the Web that they wish to monitor.

"Blocking is crude and unacceptable to staff, as it suggests that an employer doesn't trust their staff. With 10,000 new porn sites launching a day, it is impossible for the system's database to stay up to date," said Stephen Whitelaw, chief executive officer at Actis Technology.

He argued that content filtering is similarly considered unconstitutional within the US, and often requires moral decisions to be made about the appropriateness of particular Web sites. "Vatican.org was blocked by Net Nanny this week for containing Roman Catholic references -- the breast cancer site was also blocked for containing rude words."

Sarah Veale, senior employment rights officer at the Trade Union Congress argued "Net Intelligence assumes a certain degree of intelligence on the part the employee in deciding for themselves what may be classified "inappropriate" use of the Web.

She is concerned that it may conflict with the new Data Protection draft on the use of personal data in employer/employee relationships by monitoring sensitive personal data. The draft reads: "Any monitoring must be a proportionate response to the risk faced by the employer. Wherever possible it should be designed to prevent rather than detect misuse."

The draft code of practice was published by the Data Protection Commissioner last week for outside consultation, and it is hoped that the final draft will be published early next year.

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