Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 27/08/04Not a good day if you're a civil servant with a fondness for exotic bitmaps. Lots of sackings and lots of slapped wrists -- no, not in a good way -- for employees at the Department of Wa… sorry, Work and Penchants, whose online forays into arousing content didn't stand up at the disciplinary hearings.

Friday 27/08/04
Not a good day if you're a civil servant with a fondness for exotic bitmaps. Lots of sackings and lots of slapped wrists -- no, not in a good way -- for employees at the Department of Wa… sorry, Work and Penchants, whose online forays into arousing content didn't stand up at the disciplinary hearings.

You can't fault the Department's attitude that such things are a misuse of work equipment, time and other resources. However, the focus on porn as something particularly bad is increasingly hard to maintain in the face of increasing social acceptance: isn't it just as bad to spend all day chasing floral cushion covers on eBay as it is to download Betty's Big Bap Bonanza? The images were offensive, says the Department primly, and I'm sure that lots of people would agree. But then, lots of people didn't have to see them. Until the IT department uncovered the rogue files, I'm sure the images had offended nobody. I find the Daily Mail incredibly offensive, but I guard my propriety by making sure I never read the damn thing. Of course, some images are out-and-out illegal -- which is a different matter entirely.

My one experience of a company where naughtiness was discovered on people's computers was instructive. (I gloss over the time that an animated picture of farmyard antics was quietly installed on a CEO's computer, in the full and certain knowledge that he lacked the basic skills to find out what was going on and stop it, and would probably be too mortified to call in IT. Never did find out how he got rid of it.) One chap's feet didn't touch the ground on his way out: he came into work one morning to be met by HR and a security guard carrying his desk contents in a bin bag. The other assiduous collector of the pink pixel was quietly taken to one side and told that this is not the sort of thing that's expected of him, and that any future examples would cause big trouble -- now go back to your computer and delete the evidence, there's a good chap. The only difference between these two people was that the first guy was universally loathed, while the second was seen by the company as a good chap who they'd hate to lose.

It's all very reminiscent of an attitude common among London police concerning soft drugs -- personally, they couldn't give a monkey's, but it's a good excuse to feel someone's collar if you want to nick them but don't have much else to go on.

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