Your mind wanders and you start thinking about updating that digital music collection. You head over to mp3s4free.net and spend 30 minutes downloading some free music. Well pleased with your beefed up catalogue of music files, you wearily turn back to your spreadsheets. Next morning, you come in to work to see a small white envelope. It is a bill, with two items. Bandwidth and time costs for the period during which you were exploiting mp3s4free.net's offerings. As you choke on your cappuccino, you notice a second envelope from the human resources department. It contains a typewritten note inviting you to explore the vast career possibilities that lie beyond your present employer. Immediately.
This scenario leapt to mind this week as a result of two stories: an Australian company enthusiastically touting its bandwidth monitoring system and the long list of government departments, both here and in the United States, whose employees visited the mp3s4free Web site during a 12-day period in October last year. (According to the investigators involved, the log files seized to date site do not actually show users were downloading anything they shouldn't have been. Apparently they only showed "actions that referred to downloads, not actually downloads". Hmmmmmmmmmm.) Now while the bandwidth monitoring company's plans reek of overkill, the number of government agencies whose employees visited mp3s4free.net in less than two weeks indicates (on face value) that acceptable use policies regarding the Internet are being widely disregarded. (Of course, if there are legitimate government projects in Australia and the US that require visits to mp3s4free.net, I am happy to be corrected. Be curious to know what justifiable interests the Reserve Bank of Australia or the US Department of Agriculture would have in the Web site, though).
Should employers be able to bill employees for personal Internet usage? What punishments should be meted out to employees who breach acceptable use policies (and how should those punishments be graded depending on the nature of the offence? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.