Nowadays, more and more employers are watching what their employees do with the computers provided for them.

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Computer Management, Ethics & Security                Frans Nikin Suganto (B0001020)


Nowadays, more and more employers are watching what their employees do with the computers provided for them to utilize their everyday jobs. The bosses want to know whether their staffs are abusing the trust given to them or not. With the help of affordable monitoring software, they can keep a close tab with the people they employ straightforwardly. Modern technologies are providing unprecedented opportunities surveillance.

Not only they can monitor the e-mails sent and received by their employees effortlessly but also review the content of them. Same goes with reviewing the Internet usage and files stored in the computers. Employers can track down what kind of sites their employees actually visit during the working hours using Internet Monitoring Software.

Some employees sometimes sneak in some online shopping sites or sneak over an e-mail joke using the company’s resources at the time when they are supposed to attempt their jobs. This is the main reason why employers want to keep an eye on what the staffs are doing all through their working hours. They want to make sure that the employees are not wasting the company’s time and money by doing something irrelevant to their responsibilities. The employees because there are many sexual harassment cases happen in the workplace involving the usage of e-mails, which later on can put the company in trouble if the case goes to the court.

         Other forms of workplace surveillance are recording of computer keystrokes to measure the employee’s work efficiency (this method is mainly used for monitoring data entry clerk), eavesdropping employee’s telephone conversation, video recording of job performance, etc

        To the employer, being able to monitor ensures that employees are doing their job and doing them well. But at the same time, such monitoring is decried by many employees as an invasion of employee privacy. The employees thought that what their employers do is a usurpation of private rights. They feel tense and uncomfortable in doing their jobs, which can lead to deteriorating work performances. They felt that they are not being trusted by their supervisors. That is the essential conflict that still haunting the workplace monitoring issues up till now.

        Thus the question arises now is whether the employers have any rights to do such monitoring onto their employees or not, whether it is in fact ethical to do so. Until now, it is still considered controversial issue and yet no legal rules have been regulated in accordance to this matter. In this research paper, the ethical issue that is workplace surveillance will be discusses further in specific or details as possible. A research regarding the issue has been attempted including compiling comments from other authors.


Based on the research conducted by the Privacy Foundation, it was found out that what is driving the growth of e-mail and Internet surveillance in the workplaces is mainly the low cost of the technology itself. Employee monitoring, as measured by the sales of surveillance software, has increased at least twice as fast as the number of U.S. employees with Internet access in the past few years. Worldwide sales of employee monitoring software are estimated $140 million a year, or about $5.25 per monitored employee per year. According to a research carried out by AMA (American Management Association) in 2001, more than three-quarters of U.S. firms now monitor their employee’s phone calls, e-mails, Internet activities, and computer files.

Number of Workers under Continuous Online Surveillance

Source: Privacy Foundation, 2001; Nielsen/NetRatings; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic; International Labour Organization

From the figure above, it can be concluded that there is a growing trend among employees to do monitoring against their workforces. The “online workforce” refers to employees who have access to Internet at work and use it frequently.

Internet vs. E-mail Monitoring

Source: Privacy Foundation, 2001

*Doesn’t account for employees whose Internet and e-mail are both monitored.

After conducting research on the Internet, I found out that many employers are concerned about the employee’s productivities. In today’s competitive world, they have to ensure that their personnel really utilize themselves fully for the corporate. They cannot bear the consequences resulted from irresponsible employees who make use of company’s resources, time and money for the personal advantage. They also afraid that some misbehaved employees are actually disclosing the company’s secret to the competitors. That is why they do the monitoring. The objective of workplace surveillance is to make sure that the employees do not misuse the facilities granted to them.

The employers mostly thought that they have the rights to review the e-mails sent and received by the employees and what sites they visit during working hours because they own the resources. They have paid the employees salary and in return the employees must do their works accordingly.

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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 ...

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