Workplace and Computer Ethics Abuse

by Alan Hughes, Demand Media
    Unethical computer use by employees cost companies billions of dollars annually.

    Unethical computer use by employees cost companies billions of dollars annually.

    Many companies are concerned about the ethics of their employees as people's ethical behavior seems to decline each year. Valuable information assets are subject to compromise, Internet abuse threatens the health of computing assets and e-mail misuse may disclose the company’s strategic plans. These violations of ethical use of computer technology in the workplace cost companies billions of dollars per year, making it a priority on every chief information officer’s list.

    Internet Abuse

    According to the "San Antonio Business Journal," about 70 percent of online pornography is accessed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. each workday. Many people are actually addicted to the Internet and suffer withdrawal symptoms when they cannot access it. The lost productivity from Internet abuse costs companies billions of dollars each year. While the abuse is not always defined as "bad," it still costs the company in lost productivity and exposes the company to virus downloads from Web sites.

    E-mail Abuse

    Denying having read an e-mail, not replying to an e-mail in a timely manner and reading others’ e-mail without permission are all violations of workplace e-mail ethics. Sending an e-mail with another’s e-mail account is also an ethics violation. One of the worst e-mail dangers to a company occurs when an employee e-mails proprietary information to a competitor or even a news organization in order to harm the company.

    Unauthorized Information Access

    Health insurance companies, hospitals and banks are among the many categories of businesses that have highly confidential information on their computer systems. Unauthorized access and dissemination of this information is a critical violation of computer ethics and places the company in a highly liable position. Companies are subject to civil and criminal penalties if they knowingly divulge confidential customer information.

    Security Policies

    In order to address unethical use of information technology in the workplace, companies must adopt stringent computer and information security policies. They must then deploy technology to enforce the policies. Firewalls, Web content filters and information security credentials are technology solutions to unethical behavior. When a violation occurs, it is in the company’s interests to deal swiftly and consistently with the perpetrator, regardless of his position in the company. Consistent enforcement, regardless of who the violator is, sends a clear message to rank-and-file employees, and goes a long way toward preventing unethical behavior.

    About the Author

    Alan Hughes has more than 30 years of experience in IT including mainframes, programming, client/server, networks, project management, security, disaster recovery, information systems and hardware. He holds a master's degree in applied computer science and several certifications. He currently teaches information technology at the university level.

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