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11/22/2006
02:12 PM
Alice LaPlante
Alice LaPlante
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Employers, Break Out Web-Use Monitoring Tools; Employees, Watch Your Backs

Today is Cyber Monday (or Black Monday as those possessing a darker outlook on life call it) and although there's ample evidence that the popular belief of it being the busiest online shopping day of the year is myth rather than reality, no one disputes that by this date, Web-based browsing for holiday gifts is in full swing.

Today is Cyber Monday (or Black Monday as those possessing a darker outlook on life call it) and although there's ample evidence that the popular belief of it being the busiest online shopping day of the year is myth rather than reality, no one disputes that by this date, Web-based browsing for holiday gifts is in full swing.And online retailers have high expectations. Last year, holiday sales were the highest ever, according to the Visa USA's SpendTrak report. There were more than 24 million online transactions, up 43 percent from 2003.

This year, online sales are expected to increase a whopping 53 percent over that, according to Performics. Moreover, fourth quarter sales are expected to equal the sales of the first two quarters of 2006.

And when are all this cyber transactions happening? During work hours, of course. According to the BizRate 2005 eHoliday survey, more than 50 percent of consumers said they planned to do their online shopping while at their place of employment.

This statistic, coupled with other recent stories about excessive personal Web while at work, means one of two things, depending on what side of the management fence you're on. Employers should probably start paying attention to the time their employees spend surfing rather than working; and employees should be more cognizant that there are tools out there--and businesses are using them--that limit the Website they can visit, and which precisely track where employees have been online, and for how long.

It's increasingly risky for employees to engage in two much personal Web surfing while at work. A case in point: an IBM employee was fired for his Internet use while on company time. How was he caught? Through use of some of the increasingly sophisticated network monitoring tools, that give employers a window into exactly what he was up to online.

Both employers and employees face ethical decisions. For workers, how much time (if any) should they spend on personal Web use during work. What's acceptable? Half an hour? An hour? No limit (as long as you don't get caught)? For employers, how much of a Big Brother role do you want to play? Not to mention that there are tricky legal issues to navigate.

What do you think? Let me know by responding here.

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