Where’s the problem?

The news world is abuzz with a new Human Rights Court ruling that employers can legitimately check what you do at work while using the equipment they pay for.

Oh, this is a new and terrible intrusion on privacy. This is Big Brother watching your every move. This is Orwellian evil at its worst.

No it isn’t.

Your boss has no right or ability to check what you do on your personal 3G/4G phone or home internet. Only the right to check what you are doing with the equipment they provide for you to do your job. You know, the job they are paying you to do.

They are not paying you to moan about work on Farcebok or Twatter. Do that in your own time. They are not paying you to babble inconsequential crap online. Do that in your own time.

I have no access to internet at work… officially. I have no password or user account on any work computer. But they have an open WiFi so I make use of it when I’m not doing actual work.

I’m not a typical case. I don’t really work for Local Shop. I work for the subcontractor, the Secret Ninja Cleaners, so I am not a shop employee. Boss likes to check up on her employees on social media but in three years has not found either of my Farcebok accounts, none of the three Twatter accounts and none of the blogs. As far as I know anyway. Certainly she has never complained.

So I don’t use my employer’s internet, and they have provided me with no computer equipment. No matter, I have plenty of my own. I’m not as skilled as my brother who once sent me email from an employer’s admin account, but that was in the past. He derided their internet security and I told him I knew about that. I’d been eBaying and submitting stories to online magazines at work and nobody had noticed.

Further back, there was a ‘rebel network’ at one place of work that operated on the same lines, but under the radar, of the official work network. The IT department didn’t know it was there. Site blocked by the official network? Simply log on to the rebel network and you’re in.

Times have changed. It’s now much easier for an employer to check what you’re up to with the equipment they provide. It’s actually not that difficult to evade such scrutiny but those who didn’t grow up through CP/M and MS/DOS and C and assembly code and all the rest can’t imagine how it could be. It wasn’t always point and click, you know. There is a lot to play with behind that screen interface.

The bakery has 24 silicon baking mats, 12 red and 12 black. I have sent them back in Fibonacci sequence in the past and have always threatened that one day the sequence will spell ‘bum’ in 8 bit binary. One of the bakers has some understanding of what I mean. Almost all of the staff get blanked by mentioning Fibonacci.

I have a Lumia phone and I admit sometimes I still get confused by it. It’s a phone. It’s not supposed to do internet and email and screenshots and all this stuff. I’m slowly getting the hang of it but it took me a week to work out how to make a phone call.

When I was an undergraduate the university had a computer that filled a room and used punched cards to run programs. When I was a postgraduate I had a ZX-81 with a massive 16 kilobytes of memory.

I recall comments from scientists on the new 2 Mb hard drives to the tune of ‘Who needs that much storage?’ and now we are in terabytes.

It’s a safe bet your boss isn’t putting tracking programs into your work equipment or internet connections. He or she won’t know how. It’s the geek in IT who does that. Make friends with the geeks and they’ll show you how to get around the controls they put in place.

Your boss knows how to use Farcebok and Twatter and all the rest. That’s where they find you insulting them, bragging about skiving and generally being an unemployable twat, if you left your account open and used your own name and identified your workplace.

But in the end, the boss is right to sack you for doing these things. Especially if you use the stuff they’ve paid for to do it. Would you be happy if you provided someone with a computer that they then used to tell the world you’re a dick? Would you be happy to have your business described as the worst business on the planet, to the whole planet?

I poke fun at Local Shop here sometimes but I don’t tell anyone where or what it is. I don’t use any work equipment to access the internet because they don’t give me any. Most important, I don’t use my real name when doing it.

It isn’t hard to find me. I have given so many blatant clues. But I have never given an employer any real reason to find me or even look for me.

The court ruling simply means that your boss can track what you do when you’re supposed to be working. Not what you do on your own equipment in your own time.

That’s no different to having a supervisor watching you work. If you are being paid to do a job, do the damn job. If you are caught skiving you are going to get sacked. If you stand in the middle of town shouting that your boss is an arse, you are going to get sacked. If you use company tools to do home DIY, you are going to get sacked.

Doing those things on the internet is really not different at all.

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16 thoughts on “Where’s the problem?

  1. So the media is saying it’s Big Brother if employers watch over how their own equipment is being used by their workers on the job? But it’s NOT Big Brother if employers peek into your home bedroom or bathroom at three am to see if you’re smoking a cigarette?

    Strange sort of reasoning, eh?

    – MJM

    Liked by 1 person

    • Likewise testing employees for cotinine to find out if they smoke. If it’s not allowed in the workplace (and employers do not have that choice, no matter how much they crow about having a ‘smoking policy’) then fair enough, it’s not allowed.

      But when I’m not being paid to do a particular thing then I don’t do it unless I want to. Similarly if I’m not being paid to not do something, I’ll do it if I want to.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Like you, I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about either. My company policy is quite clear – use their equipment, but don’t be cheeky!

    If the chap had been any good at his job, a few messages on the company network would be noted but ignored. I suspect he wasn’t, and this was an easy way to get rid.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The bigger worry for employers is not wasted time, but the fact that employees might cause them to get a virus in the system from unauthorised sites, or that an employee might be stealing data. My daughter’s employer has blanked off or disabled all the unused USB sockets, the only way to get data off the computer is to send it by e-mail.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Where a company has home-based employees and provides all the hardware & pays for the internet connection into that employee’s home the simple warning “Our IT bods can track your internet activity and every page you’ve visited” is usually sufficient to cover their arses should incriminating evidence be found on their equipment.

    Sadly, some politicians & public-sector workers seem to fail to understand that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I haven’t been ’employed’ since the early eighties, but if I was, I wouldn’t have a problem with not being able to use the work computer for personal stuff. There is a gulf between ‘freedom’ and using the guvner’s kit to post naked selfies on instagram, or whatever. One needs to take a reasonable approach to these things.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s not even that. The case has some very specific aspects, which don’t translate well to most workplaces. Unusually, the employer completely prohibited personal use. Outside of call-centres, I’m not aware of many organisations that are this stringent.

    Secondly, I believe the lad was sacked because of the weight of private use – these are always difficult cases. My way of approaching them has been twofold – firstly, the question is “is the slacking off preventing them from doing their work or not”. Secondly, there is no real difference between slacking off electronically, or chatting about football matches in the break room, gossiping about soaps over the water cooler, or scurrying outside to the smokers’ ghetto.

    Liked by 1 person

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