Can my company in the UK use a personal email sent to a colleague outside of work against me? Isn't this an invasion of my private life ?
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Many companies today rely heavily on the use of Internet resources as part of their business operations. Customer service representatives use the Internet to research existing clients and sometimes to use online tools like web conferencing to provide training or information to customers. Salespeople make use of the Internet to find and qualify leads and do demonstrations of various types of services. With so many tasks requiring access to the Internet, employers rightly want to make sure that employees are using the Internet for work and not for other purposes. The best way to accomplish this is to use monitoring software to monitor employee Internet activity that is generated at each workstation in the company network.
There are a number of software products on the market today that allow employers to monitor employee Internet activity. One of the more simplistic approaches involves the use of software that captures the keystrokes that are entered in order to conduct searches online or enter text into fields on a web site template. One of the benefits of capturing the keystrokes is that it is possible to reconstruct how an employee happened to end up on a particular page on a given web site. For example, if the keystroke analysis shows that the employee entered a search request into a browser that included what appeared to be an innocuous string of words but then ends up on an adult site with a name that includes those words, it is at least a possibility that the visit to the non-business related site was an accident. By contrast, if the employee enters keystrokes that spell out the exact URL for a non-work related site, it can be ascertained that the act was intentional.
Software that captures duration of time spent at a site can also be important when the employer wants to monitor employee Internet activity. This can help an employer to have a better idea if the employee is checking personal email accounts on breaks or during lunch, or if he or she is spending an inordinate amount of work time on personal matters. While most employers do have some tolerance for using company Internet resources for quick checks once or twice a day, a great deal of time spent on non-work related Internet searches and use may be grounds for disciplinary action.
There are even some software packages designed to monitor employee Internet activity and capture images of the pages that the employee was viewing. This can be especially helpful, since it makes it easier to determine if the employee visited the site to read comments about a customer product or some news item that is related to a research project. This type of view capability will also make it obvious if the surfing activity was for personal reasons rather than professional.
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