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Will the real Big Brother please stand up
Member Name: Sparky101
Date: 04/11/00, updated on 04/11/00 (98 review reads)
Advantages: Privacy is a civil right, whether it's virtual or real world
Disadvantages: Companies need to protect themselves
Right, there are 2 issues here to discuss. Let's start with the first issue of a company's right to monitor their employee's e-mails and Internet usage. This is a real no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. Of course they should have the right to monitor e-mail and Internet usage. There are a few reasons why I feel this way. For starters, while you're at work you are supposed to be working so any e-mails you write or web browsing should be work related. So employees should not have any problems with this being monitored. But of course we all know that a large percentage of employees do use their company's e-mail and Internet for personal use.
Now, most companies don't have a major problem with this as long as it doesn't interfere with work. But they do need to protect themselves from misuse. For example, the company I work for allows their employees to use their network for personal use but alongside that they've set out a policy for using the network. The policy states that you can't use the network for playing games, downloading pornographic material, promoting your own business or saying anything against your employer in a public forum. Any breach of this policy is grounds for dismissal which is fair enough because the company themselves could be liable for your actions.
I would say my employer is quite lenient in it's network policy. To be honest if I was an employer and had internet access which was required for my business I wouldn't allow my employees to be using it for personal use at all because I'm paying them to work not browse the net. Some companies have taken this stance but have set aside for example a room where people can go at lunchtimes and use the net. But I would still give the company the right to monitor what people are doing because again it comes down to liability. If for example an employee sends an e-mail threatening the life of the PM (a bit extreme I know) then if a compa
ny was monitoring emails they could stop the e-mail being sent and prosecute the culprit.
The second issue here is whether or not the government (or some other agency) has the right to monitor people's private e-mails. Again I would say this is a no-brainer. No way do they have that right. Compare it to normal post. If you put a letter into the Royal Mail you don't expect someone to open it before it gets delivered to it's recipient. E-mails should be exactly the same. Yes, there's the argument to say that a lot of illegal activity goes on on the net and monitoring activity could help catch some of the perpetrators. But the same could be said of the real world. We could bug phone lines, read everyone's mail, put some sort of tracking system into cars, we could all wear tags like prisoners. You could take things like this to an extreme very easily and it comes back to your civil rights.
A good real world comparison is with the police's rights to search someone's house. If they suspect someone then they can't just break into their house and search it, they need a search warrant and some sort of evidence to get that warrant. As human beings we have our rights and one of those is the right to privacy. Giving the government the right to monitor our virtual lives is the first step on a very slippery slope.