But some experts, such as Carl Botan, have argued that such monitoring can affect the employee’s confidence thus influencing the work productivity also. It makes employees felt not trusted by the employers and can reduce the communication both employee to employee and employee to supervisor. It can put more pressure to the employees. (See Appendix A)
Employees don’t feel companies should monitor and review their communication via internet. They believe their privacy rights are being violated when this occurs. While employers believe employees should have no expectations of privacy when they are using company equipment to communicate with.
After evaluating the opinions from both parties, I contend that neither side is wrong or right, in an absolute sense. I believe neither that monitoring is inherently wrong and should be outlawed, nor should that employers have “free-reign” over their employees, monitoring them secretly and at will. There is a middle ground in all this, and while there may be different ways to stand on it, there are certain aspects of this issue that must be adopted by any reasonable compromise.
The Web is constructed in such way that one thing is designed to lead another. If I’m reading a work-related site and follow a link that interest me to another site, that’s just a natural curiosity, it take just a few minutes, and I don’t think it constitutes much if any of an offense. If anything, it is replacing idle water cooler chat – everyone needs breaks in their day, as no one can work for 8 hours straight all the time and maintain a healthy attitude.
The employers cannot expect the employees to keep working no stop without break except lunch hour break like a robot, because they are not. Human beings need to relax their minds for a while; they need to be fresh in order to continue completing their jobs well.
While employees need to be aware that they are likely being monitored, employers need to strike a delicate balance between trusting their employees to behave responsibly and watching for extreme flouting of the rules.
The employers also have to be fair in conducting the monitoring. It means that a written policy regarding that matter has to be set clearly as what Mary M. Speidel has suggested. Not only that, they have to explain to their employees also what kind of monitoring they will conduct and to what extend it will be done. And the management needs to make the employees really understand the nature of it and accept it later. (See Appendix A)
Naturally people sometimes forget things as they have many things to in their minds especially when they are busy so the employers need to remind this every certain period of time. For instance, every time they connect to the Internet, display a reminder on the screen regarding this policy.
A certain amount of flexibility also has to be predicted by the employers. They need to understand that sometimes their staffs have no choice but to use the company’s resources for their own personal matters as what Simon Rogerson has said. For example, they need to transfer money quickly to their relatives who need it badly so they have to use some time in their working hours utilizing the company’s Internet connection to settle this matter.
In the other hand, the employees also have to be responsible to the company. They have to be alert that the company has paid them to accomplish certain works so they have to make sure that they get it done properly. It is irresponsible for them to misuse the responsibility placed on them. For example spend most of the time browsing the online shopping sites and neglecting the works.
Some personal use should be acceptable at intermittent times as long as it is not excessive. The employees and employer need to discuss this to reach a mutually satisfactory criterion for what may constitute “excessive”. The 10 minute breaks would still in place and separate and apart from any small personal use of the Internet or e-mail or games (after all, a person could be playing a computer game while on hold for business call or even while having a business call). There are reasonable guidelines which could be established to accommodate these things and still sniff out the abuse. Above all, the employees and employers must communicate to one another about all this. Throwing around demands due to personal “rights”, however, would definitely be a deterrent to any reasonable solution.
As what Lewis Maltby saying, in order to put workplace surveillance into effect, the employers do not necessary intrude the personal life of the employees by reading their e-mails. They do not have to go through the content to determine whether the sender or the receiver of the e-mail is professionally related to the employee or not. If any doubt arises, the employer can actually go through the content with prior notice to the employee concerned. The employee has the right to be present while the review is being done. (See Appendix A)
Employers who use workplace monitoring software need to keep in mind Kant’s Categorical Imperative. For Immanuel Kant, all of morality depended on a categorical imperative and a version of that is, “Always treat humanity, whether in yourself or in other people, as an end in itself and never as a mere means.” In relating workplace monitoring with Kan’s philosophy, we should bear in mind that what makes human beings different than office machinery is that people have dignity, which is based on their ability to freely choose what they will do with their lives. Employees are not object and they are not employer’s tools to gain profit as well. So a set of ground rules explaining what is expected of the employee, defining what materials and equipment belong to who, and what the consequences are of violating the policy should be declared to the employees when they have decided to join the company. They can choose both to stay and abide by the rules or leave the company if they do not agree with the rules.
Workplace surveillance as a matter of fact is the employer’s right as long as it is done properly and ethically. It means that the management of the company has to set a guideline for that matter that is later communicated to the employees from the moment they join the company. It is better if the monitoring policy is prepared jointly by the employers and employees. So the policy draft will contain statements that are accepted by both parties. They are entitled to know whatever their employees are doing with the facility the company provides for them.
Since some experts that have conducted researches on the behavior of employees under monitoring comments that surveillance could affect the employee’s work performance, I think more researches should be done in order to understand more about the effect of the workplace monitoring and how to resolve that matter. And as far as I’m concerned, as long as the monitoring is conducted in such a fair and ethical way that does not violate the employee’s privacy, and the employees are well informed and aware of that, it should not be a problem for them. The employees should have prepared themselves mentally fro the inspection.
The government also should be quick in defining the federal or state law regarding this matter. So both parties, either employer or employees, will not be sacrificed for other party’s advantage. Certainly the weaker side will be the employees. That is why a law is needed to protect their rights.
But actually, the International Labour organization (ILO) has adopted a code of practice on the protection of worker’s personal data. The ILO code is regarded as the standard among privacy advocates for protection of worker’s privacy rights. The code specifies that worker’s data should be collected and used consistently with Fair Information Practices (FIPs). The protections include:
- Coverage for both public and private sector employees.
- That employee should have notice of data collection processes.
- That data should be collected and used lawfully and fairly.
- That employer should collect the minimum necessary data required for employment.
- That data should only be collected from the employee, absent consent.
- That data should only be used for reasons directly relevant to employment and only for the purposes for which the data were originally collected.
- That data should be held securely.
- That worker should have access to data.
- That data should not be transferred to third parties absent consent or to comply with a legal requirement.
- That worker cannot waive their privacy rights.
- That medical data is confidential.
- That certain data, such as sex life and political and religious beliefs, should not be collected.
- That certain collection technique, such as polygraph testing, should be prohibited.
This code should be used as a guideline for the employers to conduct a monitoring and the employees could also refer to it when they have doubt whether the employers do the surveillance in an ethical and proper manner or not.
As a conclusion, it is ethical for employer to monitor the communication activities through Internet done by their employers as long it is done according to guideline laid by the company. As a matter of fact, monitoring employee’s activity is not a bad action if the intention is to ensure that work progresses so that the business can make profit. If business makes profit, it means that the employees are guarantied that they can still have their jobs and not being laid off instead. Employees also have to be made aware that monitoring do happens if the management has decided to conduct it in the working environment.
Four Step Process
Step 1. Understanding the situation
List and number the relevant facts
- Hopper Specialty is a retail vendor of industrial hardware located in Farmington, New Mexico.
- After ten years, it had become the largest distributor of industrial hardware in the northwest corner of the state
- The inventory was so huge that it was difficult to manage manually.
- Joe Hopper, the owner of Hoper Specialty decided to utilize a computer system to manage the inventory.
- After searching for some time, Joe Hopper decided to choose application software called Warehouse Manager.
- Warehouse Manager was chosen because NCR (the vendor of Warehouse Manager) promised support for the whole system, including hardware, the various software components, and terminals. Furthermore, the NCR sales staff had also told Joe Hopper that the software has been thoroughly debugged and was operating smoothly at more than 200 sites.
- Shortly after the system installation, it turned out that the system was not working in the way it was promised to. There were a lot of problems surfaced such as inaccurate data of the product’s price.
- Hopper always reported problems to NCR, but NCR told him that only his company was having such problems using the system.
- Hopper Specialty began to lose their customers because of the inefficiency and errors cause by Warehouse Manager.
- Joe Hopper had no choice but to lay off his employee and cut down the health benefits for the remaining employees.
- After few years using that system, the company claimed that it suffered a loss of $4.2 million due to the system. So hopper Specialty sued NCR.
- NCR said that the lawsuit was filed too late. Hopper should have filed the suit before reached four years of Warehouse Manager usage.
- Overall, NCR had sold approximately 40 copies of Warehouse Manager from 1987 through 1992. More than two dozens of those sales ended with lawsuits being filed against NCR.
- The Warehouse Manager application software was developed by Taylor management to run Burroughs Corp. (now Unisys Corp.) computers with a Burroughs Operating System.
- The application could not run straightaway on other platform including NCR, it had to be modified. Taylor Management assumed responsibility of converting it is that it can run properly in NCR environment when NCR licensed it from Taylor Management.
- In April 1987, Warehouse Manager began to installed on customer’s NCR computers.
- Not long after that, Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co. complained about the troubles Warehouse Manager had caused it. Another company, called Burgman Industries, complained that the software was unprofessional and full of bugs.
- NCR always told the customers that their problems were isolated, that the system was running smoothly in other sites, but they kept a full record of all the complains they received. Internally, they didn’t deny that the software was actually troubled and they terminated the sales for a while in order to reduce the critical bugs.
- NCR and Taylor started to argue over the cause of the problems. They blamed each other and eventually they ended up in court to resolve this.
- In may 1988, NCR received two internal field reports stated that Warehouse Manager had not been tested thoroughly in actual business settings prior to its release.
- In 1992, NCR released an improved yet still full of bugs version of Warehouse Manager. Later in that year, NCR finally halted the sales of Warehouse Manager for good.
- In every legal document for each lawsuit against NCR, the company always claimed that it has every reason to believe that the Taylor Software was actually working well on NCR computers. As for the Hopper case, it was also the same thing.
- NCR has settled many of the lawsuits against it but they were done secretly. Publicly, they still deny responsibility and blame the flaws of Warehouse Manager on the application program they licensed from Taylor Management.
Which of these raises an ethical issue? Why? What is the potential or resulting harm?
The fact (fact number 18 and 20) that the software had not been tested painstakingly before its launching but yet NCR still denied that there was something wrong with the software can raise an ethical issue. Because by doing so, it can bring several potential harms to existence, i.e.:
- It can cause the company that uses the application loss and even bankrupt.
- The employees of the company that utilizes the software are at the risk of being laid off or lose some of the benefits they used to enjoy.
- The customers of the company using the software also can be harmed because of the data inaccuracy, such as the wrong price.
Another fact that can raise an ethical issue is fact number 21. The potential harm is the same with above. Fact number 23 can bring potential harm such as whether it is fair to all users of Warehouse Manager or not to deny the responsibility.
List of the stakeholder involved
- Hopper Specialty
- Taylor Management
- Hopper Specialty’s employees
- Other companies (companies that used Warehouse Manager such as: Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co, etc)
Step 2. Isolating the Major Ethical Dilemma
What is the ethical dilemma to be resolved now?
Should NCR settle the lawsuit from Hopper Specialty and publicly announce to public that Warehouse Manager was a failure?
Step 3. Analyzing the Ethicality of Both Alternatives in Step 2
Based on Australian Computer Society (ACS) code of ethics, I would like to analyze the action of NCR and Taylor Management.
- NCR did not do a through checking onto the software prior to its release yet claimed that it was free of bugs and there was no problem with the software, instead they sometimes blamed the customer’s environment for the problems. I consider it to be a violation of codes stated in Part 7(Honesty) point 1 “I must not knowingly mislead a client or potential client as to the suitability of a product or a service”, and Part 10 point 2 “I must not knowingly engaged in, or be associated with, dishonest or fraudulent practices.”
- The NCR’s and Taylor Management’s ignorance had caused many companies loss. It is a breach of ACS code of ethics Part 6(Competence) point 2 “I must give value for money in the services and products I supply.”
- “Don’t tell anyone but ….”
In this case, NCR tried to cover the real fact that the software was actually a troubled one from their customers. NCR made them believe that they were the only ones who experienced the problem with the software. NCR didn’t want to let the public know that the software was full of bugs. Silently, NCR tried to resolved the bugs.
- The Parent Test
NCR had lied to their customers about the software quality. Our parents would not approve such action. Since we were young, they always thought us to be honest to others.
- The Nose Test
NCR was trying to say something false to be the other way around. The situation had a “bad smell”.
- The Public Broadcast Test
The action that NCR had done was wrong. NCR definitely would not want to broadcast this action through television.
- The Advertising Test
NCR also would not put an advertisement regarding the full of bugs software and how they were trying to cover the flaws of it.
- If the action in Step 2 is done who, if anyone, will be harmed?
NCR and the employees of NCR. NCR will be considered irresponsible by launching unreliable software to the market so it will threaten the image of the company, and in the future it can affect the company’s business.
- If the action in Step 2 is not done who, if anyone, will be harmed?
Hopper Specialty, Jo Hopper, the retrenched employees of Hopper Specialty, the remaining employees of Hopper Specialty (it’s possible that they be laid off also), other companies that use the software. Hopper Specialty and Joe Hopper personally had already lost millions so they need fund to continue the business. Or else Hopper Specialty may have to struggle maintain the business. Other companies that use Warehouse Manager and do not know the truth about it will suffer because of the misleading information.
- Which alternative in the least harm, 1 or 2?
- If the action in Step 2 is done who, if anyone, will benefits?
Hopper Specialty, the retrenched employees (they may get back their old jobs), the employees of Hopper Specialty, Joe Hopper, and other users of Warehouse Manager.
- If the action in Step 2 is not done who, if anyone, will benefit?
NCR and their employees. NCR don’t have to spend money so the company can still survive and their employees are not at a stake of being retrenched.
- Which alternative results in the maximum benefits, 4 or 5?
Right and Duties
What rights have been or may be abridged?
Hopper Specialty has the right to know that the Warehouse Manager has problems. NCR has duty to tell Hopper Specialty regarding the matter.
What duties have been or may be neglected?
NCR has duty to test every software they are going to launch to the market. The society has the right to get bugs-free software.
Kant’s Categorical Imperative
- If the action in Step 2 is done who, if anyone, will be treated with disrespect?
NCR, because public will know that NCR had tried to cover the truth of the software quality.
- If the action in Step 2 is not done who, if anyone, will be treated with disrespect?
- Which alternatives is preferable, 1 or 2?
- If action in Step 2 is done who, if anyone, will be treated unlike others?
NCR, because the society will have prejudice thoughts in their mind toward NCR’s products
- If the action in Step 2 is not done who, if anyone, will be treated unlike others?
- Which alternatives is preferable, 4 or 5?
- Are there benefits if everyone did the action in Step 2?
Yes, Hopper Specialty can resume its business, society will know the truth
- Are there benefits if no-one did the action in Step 2?
Yes, NCR will have an untarnished image
- Which alternative is preferable, 7 or 8?
Step 4. Making a Decision and Planning the Implementation
Make a defensible ethical decision
NCR should settle the lawsuit from the Hopper Specialty even though Hopper Specialty only filed the suit after using Warehouse Manager for more than four years. NCR also should announce to the public that releasing Warehouse Manager to the market without testing it thoroughly is a mistake.
List the specific steps needed to implement your defensible decision
- NCR accepts whatever the court decided regarding the case of Hopper Specialty
- NCR publicly announces that Warehouse Manager is not eligible to be used in the business environment
- NCR withdraws all copies of Warehouse Manager from the customers who have bought them previously and compensate them according to the legal agreement made between both parties
Show the major stakeholders are affected by these actions
- NCR’s image in the software market will be tarnished. They have to try hard in order to improve it.
- With the fund they get, Hopper Specialty can make their business better
- Other companies that use Warehouse Manager and experience the same problems can ask for compensation from NCR.
What other longer-term changes (political, legal, technical, societal, and organizational) would help prevent such problems in the future?
Next time, NCR should be more careful in selling products. They should not manipulate the customers by exaggerating the products they are going to say. They should state whatever limitations the products have.
Government should consider of providing a legal framework regarding this matter. It is to ensure that every software application launched to the market has been meticulously tested in a real environment. If there is a company or more violating this rule, at least there is a legal guideline of what the rights of customers are and what the duties of vendors are.
NCR should really test every software they develop prior to the launch. They have to minimize the bugs, and eliminate the ethical ones.
NCR should be honest to the society if there is something wrong with the software that has been launched to the market. They have responsibility to withdraw that product as soon as possible before the customers suffer a lot and try to improve it.
NCR should restructure the way they develop software. Even thorough they are not the on who develops it, they have the responsibility to do a through examination before introducing it to the market.
What should have been done or not done in the first place (at the pivot point) to avoid this dilemma?
NCR together with Taylor Management should have done thorough checking to Warehouse Manager. They should try run the software in real environment not in a simulated one.