Should Corporations Monitor Employees Computer Activity Information Technology Essay

As the human populace continues to grow, so does the number of individuals connected to the Internet. This is presenting itself in a number of areas, one being the workplace. This paper will deliver both sides of the corporate monitoring debate. Each of the sides have very credible but vastly different views regarding the right to privacy at the workplace. Corporate monitoring is not a new concept and has been around since the inception of the job. Employers have used monitoring of employees work to verify the work quality of their employees as a basis for reward or punishment. Since the invention of the internet around 1973, the workplace environment has continued to evolve with the digital era. The evolution of new office communication methods and an always-available world wide web of information has made many organizations start taking a deeper look at how the employees are utilizing the telecommunication methods of the digital work place. Recent survey by the American Management Association (AMA) suggests that 80% of corporations have used some kind of monitoring tactic. (American Management Association, The ePolicy Institute, Feburary ) There are many forms of workplace monitoring, but this will be an analytical review of the monitoring of employees’ computer use. The arguments presented will start with the explanation of what is illegal and the legal challenges when corporations decide to deal with electronic monitoring. The following section will address the employees’ right to privacy, their reaction to the businesses stance of computer monitoring, The finally view offered is for the corporation’s right to protect themselves from legal liabilities by monitoring its employees. The conclusion of will confirm that the decision to use electronic monitoring should not be based on the soul reference the organization, but should be a collaboration of all parties involved throughout the process.

Today most employees in the workplace are internet and computer savvy. They are products of an internet era and are experts in productivity that benefit their organizations. Recent surveys preformed by American Management Association (AMA) and the ePolicy Institute, reference employers who do not believe that their employees are as efficient as they state on their resumes. Today almost all jobs are subject to one form of electronic monitoring or another. In a 2007 survey conducted by American Management Association (AMA) and the ePolicy Institute it was stated, “Computer monitoring takes many forms, with 45% of employers tracking content, keystrokes, and time spent at the keyboard. Another 43% store and review computer files. Of the 43% of companies that monitor e-mail, 73% use technology tools to automatically monitor e-mail and 40% assign an individual to manually read and review e-mail.” (American Management Association, The ePolicy Institute, Feburary ) With so many corporations participating in employee monitoring, are there any rules that corporations must follow? The next section will look at the regulations that hold the employers accountable for their monitoring tactics.

When and how is it illegal for a business to monitor the electronic actions of an employee? The US federal government has three conditions that will qualify as illegal electronic monitoring. The federal government has created the Electronic Communication Privacy Act (1986), often referred to as ECPA or the Act, which “prohibits the unauthorized accession and disclosure of electronic communications that are stored in a computer system.” (Judith Lockhart, 1999) The condensed version of the Act considers three types of behavior to be illegal: “(1) the interception of wire, oral and electronic communications, (2) the accession of stored wire, oral and electronic communications, and (3) the disclosure of information contained in stored communications.” (Judith Lockhart, 1999) If an employer has illegally obtained any digital information, the penalties for violating the Act can range from just a hundred dollars a day for each day of a violation or ten thousand dollars. Many of the violators “are subject to liability for criminal and civil penalties, attorney’s fees and, in some cases, punitive damages.” (Judith Lockhart, 1999). There are few rules that organizations are required to follow in order to monitor their employees and the penalties for violating these rules certainly do not pose any really threat. Electronic monitoring technology is currently developing much faster than the US governing body can cultivate laws to protect the employees. Therefore, the relaxed rules are not guarding employees but giving institutions the ability to turn the phrase workplace privacy into an office fallacy.

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Legally, the businesses can monitor employees due to the lack of government interaction on this important issue. The deficiency of proper guidelines and the government choosing to acknowledge the employer’s definition of privacy over the employees, is allowing employers reach new levels of employee privacy invasion. Companies like the one I work for, monitor all aspects of their employee / facility interactions. Every building entrances, current building location, building exits, Emails, telephone conversations, voicemail, Internet usage, and video monitoring are all acceptable methods of surveillance. So what is legally ticket that allows a business to monitor its employees? The primary rule that organizations must follow is that the institutions must create a monitoring policy and then the employers must notify all employees of the electronic monitoring policy. There are different stipulations that compose an effective policy. Only computers owned by the business can be subject to monitoring. Companies cannot monitor an employee’s personal computer in the office. Emails that use the companies supporting infrastructure or hardware are subject to monitoring, but only if the employee is educated on the company’s internet and email policy. Any entity that does not first create a policy and then make it public for all employees to acknowledge cannot monitor your electronic actions. With no real direct local laws addressing electronic monitoring, businesses are free to monitor, as they feel necessary as long the guidelines used by corporations relate to the following: “(1) The work is done at the employer’s place of business; (2) The employer owns the equipment; (3) The employer has an interest in monitoring employee activity to ensure the quality of work; and (4) The employer has the right to protect property from theft and fraud.” (Awosoft Software and Design,, 2010) In the next section, the argument will offer the employees view towards workplace monitoring, and the perspective of the privacy advocate.

As employers, continue to inundate employees with corporate security measures and new monitoring policies. The atmosphere in the work environment begins to change to a stressed and sometime hostile environment for the candidates. Excessive electronic monitoring can be a sign of poor management attempting evaluate employee’s performance. The lines between personal time and work time are already starting to blur as employees take home laptops and carry blackberries everywhere they go. Today the individuals where I work on average spend at least five additional hours a week at home, in an effort to get caught up on work not completed in the office. Micro management of employees puts a great deal of stress on the employee to perform with limited breaks, because of fear that they are underperforming. And as a result they will not meet their yearly expectations and will be next to be replaced. As more aspects of the employee workload is monitored the harder the job becomes and the more likely the employee is to fail. While some job are easier to monitor then others employees electronic monitoring introduces stress into relationships between the employee and the employer. Employees want to believe that their managers are looking out for their well-being as they drudge through the tireless workdays. The damage that this monitoring can cause between the two parties will eventually begin to dissolve the relationship, leading to a counter productive workforce. The home page of ACLU posts this regarding workplace privacy. “Many of the basic rights we all take for granted are not protected when we go to work. In fact, the ACLU receives more complaints about workplace rights violations than about any other issue. The ACLU continues to fight for employees’ right to privacy by challenging how those rights are violated by employers through hidden surveillance, unwarranted drug testing and “lifestyle discrimination.” (ACLU, 2010) Employees want to believe that they have the right to privacy in the workplace. Regardless of the fact that this does not exists. I interviewed Ilana Corum, the Director of Human Resources at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, and she stated. “Every company has different guidelines when it comes to corporate monitoring. Most however, have a similar theme. One being, should an employee use a company computer, telephone, email, etc. it is company property. Meaning that any document one saves, call one makes, email one sends is technically company property. This in turn protects the company, but makes the employees very uneasy. Uneasy in the sense that they feel they are being monitored, which in reality they are. Some companies choose to be open about their computer monitoring policies, while others do not make the policy as visible. This in turn creates a debate amongst the employees and employers.” She would not go into detail about the monitoring that EDMC performs on its employees but she commented that: “the organization invests time and energy in trying to promote a positive working environment, work-life balance, an engaged workforce, and a culture of recognition.” Excessive electronic monitoring would introduce unnecessary stress and pressure on the employees, and would be the opposite of what these businesses want to promote. Total electronic surveillance would contribute to employee burning out and high employee turnover rates within the business unit. As important as it is for a company to monitor employees’ productivity, privacy advocates claim that companies with relaxed electronic monitoring guidelines have happy employees that are more productive.

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In conclusion, the concept regarding employee monitoring is not a new one. The rules have definitely changed since our parent’s generation went to work. This paper explained various sides of the corporate monitoring subject. The paper has shown that the technology is developing faster than the lawmakers can state the legality of the situation. It stated that employers have the right to monitor their employees to promote productivity and to protect the company’s assets. This paper also shows how important it is for the employees to feel comfortable while in a work environment. The conclusion drawn from this paper will be that all parties need to work and consult with each other to create core laws that will protect all parties involved. If the importance of the business relationship is reflective of trust between employers and employees then there be steps taken to ensure that there is an appropriate balance between employee’s workplace privacy and employers workplace monitoring.


ACLU. (2010). Workplace Privacy. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from ACLU:

American Management Association, The ePolicy Institute. (Feburary , 2008 28 ). 2007 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey. Retrieved October 28, 2010, from

Awosoft Software and Design,. (2010). Computer Monitoring Software. Retrieved November 3, 2010, from pc-remote-monitoring.: /

Bob Frascino, M. (2010, July 28). Hocus-Pocus: Quantum Quackery, aka Alternative Medicines for HIV/AIDS. Retrieved October 24, 2010, from

Burton, L. &. (2008). The language of argument. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Copyright © Privacy Rights Clearinghouse/UCAN. (2010). Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring . Retrieved October 31, 2010, from

Flynn, N. (2004). 2004 Workplace E-Mail and Instant Messaging Survey . Retrieved October 26, 2010, from the ePolicy Institute:

Joyce, A. (2006, October 1). Every Move You Make. The Washington Post .

Qinyu Liao, X. L. (2009). WORKPLACE MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEE MISUSE: DOES PUNISHMENT MATTER. The Journal of Computer Information Systems. , 50 (2), pp. 49, 11 pgs.


Anandarajan, M., & Simmers, C. (2004). Personal Web Usage in the Workplace: A Guide to Effective Human Resources Management. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing. Retrieved from: South University Online Library database:

(Document ID: None supplied by South University library or the publisher.)

This is book or secondary source that is written to explain the dynamics that happen within an organization. This book explores the legal liabilities that a company must follow to ensure that they are not sued because of employee actions while on line. It give scenarios of corporations that do not monitor their employees and the repercussions that the institutions face as a result. It covers terms such as cyber-slacking that will support reasons for monitoring of employees.

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Clark, C. S. (1995). Can the use of cyberspace be governed? CQ Researcher , 5 (24). Retrieved from: South University Online Library database:

(Document ID: None supplied by South University library or the publisher.)

This is a secondary source take from a journal found using the South University library. This is a very detailed explanation of why the internet should be regulated and controlled not just on a corporate level but also on government level. It lists pro and cons from each side with supporting examples of each. It covers sensitive subjects like pornography and internet user’s first amendments rights to access such data. This article goes into great detail to explain cyber policing.

Marshall, P. (2001). Privacy in the Workplace. The CQ Researche , 11 (19), 505-528. Retrieved from: South University Online Library database:

(Document ID: None supplied by South University library or the publisher.)

This is a secondary supporting article that gives a detailed explanation of how people are losing their privacy. What is “the potential to abuse privacy is very likely,” Larry Chiang. There are a ton of facts including both the pros and the cons of both sides. It gives example of how people are losing their individual rights to privacy every day. It does offer a broad spectrum of information and this source would need to be restricted because of the wealth of data this article covers regarding both the corporate and private sectors. It also mentions companies that collect data on consumers. Where do we draw the limit?

Muther, C. (1999, feb. 17). Unseen audience for Web surfers More employers are using monitoring software to keep an eye on workers. Boston Globe , p. D. 1.

Retrieved from: South University Online Library database:

(Document ID: None supplied by South University library or the publisher.)

This is a secondary source taken from a newspaper the Boston Globe. It is a detailed account of an Employer, Walter Konjolka, and their decision to install internet monitoring software. It gives examples of how the company can now track internet activity of its employees. It also gives examples of pricing matrix used for purchasing such software. It explains the love-hate relationship the monitoring software invoked at the company. This will give the employees point of view to the essay to create the argument.

Qinyu Liao, X. L. (2009). WORKPLACE MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEE MISUSE: DOES PUNISHMENT MATTER. The Journal of Computer Information Systems. , 50 (2), pp. 49, 11 pgs. Retrieved from: South University Online Library database:

(Document ID: None supplied by South University library or the publisher.)

This is another secondary source that explains for the internet has and is still reshaping the workplace. It is packed with supporting facts like “on average more than 81 minutes of work time per employee per day is wasted doing non- work-related computer activities.” It looks like an excellent source to use to implement facts that can support the corporate logic. It is comprised of 7 sections including introduction and conclusion. This article includes survey regarding “employees that were asked to evaluate their companies internet monitoring system.”

Weckert, J. (2004). Electronic Monitoring in the Workplace: Controversies and Solutions. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing. Retrieved from: South University Online Library database:

(Document ID: None supplied by South University library or the publisher.)

This is a secondary book found in the South University on line Library. IT’s a 300 page book that covers all aspects of electronic surveillance in the workplace. It covers different approached that will help argue the love – hate relationship that the monitoring software brings into a work environment. In chapter 11 it states that monitoring software might not be the best option of some companies because this type of intrusive software can disrupt the harmony of the workplace. I know that this source will help create a coruscate that will help guild though this subject.

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