Employers must be aware of Net dangers

Futzing - a term coined to describe the unauthorised access to web sites by members of staff, is now so prevalent that employers need to consider installing Web blocking software to limit the practice according to Ian Kilpatrick, managing director of communications firm Wick Hill Group. However, clear guidelines in the workplace may be just as useful.

Futzing - a term coined to describe the unauthorised access to web sites by members of staff, is now so prevalent that employers need to consider installing Web blocking software to limit the practice according to Ian Kilpatrick, managing director of communications firm Wick Hill Group. However, clear guidelines in the workplace may be just as useful.

Quoting a study by industry analyst Gartner Group, Kilpatrick reckons as much as 20% of the time employees spend on the Internet can actually be spent on chat groups or sports and leisure sites, rather than on work-related activity. As well as interfering with "proper work" Kilpatrick says futzing can leave employers exposed to prosecution: "If someone downloads, say a pornographic or racist image and another employee sees it or it is passed onto them, there are legal considerations."

But Web blocking is, says David Kerr chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, only one way to persuade employees not to risk downloading illegal content. "There is of course some onus on the employer to enforce good guidelines for staff. If they (employees) insist on downloading illegal content and the company has put in place clear guidelines then disciplinary action is often the next course followed."

According to a spokesman for the Metropolitan police any companies that grant Net access to employees need to ensure they have written guidelines banning downloading illegal content onto company machines. "Having written guidelines on how employees should behave when online shows the organisation is taking the matter seriously," says the spokesman "and there is of course software available to block certain sites".

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