Can My Boss Really Monitor My Internet Use?

If you’re like most employees, chances are you’ve gone to Facebook to post a status update; logged on to YouTube to view a funny video; or shopped for shoes on Amazon – all while you’re still on the clock.

But in a day and age of social networking and online access to just about anything, many employers monitor their employees’ Internet usage, from the web pages they read to the comments they post on blogs and in forums.

Can your boss really monitor your internet use? The short answer is yes.

Federal law gives employers the right to monitor all computer activity. Since the employer owns the computer system, employees have no reasonable expectations of privacy when using that system. Employers can even monitor your personal email accounts as long as you’re logged onto the company network or using company-owned equipment.

And if your company monitors Internet usage, they’re certainly not alone.

In fact, according to a survey by the American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute, two-thirds of employers monitor workers’ Internet use. More specifically, almost half of employers said they track content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard.

Generally speaking, there are three reasons why employers want to monitor Internet usage at work:

1. Productivity. In a tough economy, employers want to make sure that employees are being as productive as possible, not wasting time online.

2. Convenience. With advances in technology, it’s both easy and cost efficient to install software that helps employers monitor Internet usage.

3. Reduced liability. With most disputes today being settled in the courtroom, rather than the boardroom, it makes sense for businesses to protect themselves with monitoring software. Through it, they can ensure employees aren’t blabbing about trade secrets online, sending out nasty emails about their boss, sexually harassing a co-worker, or posting discriminatory comments on a blog.

Furthermore, your employer does not have to tell you they’re monitoring your Internet usage. So the fact of the matter is you may never know. That’s why it’s so important to be careful about your Internet use while on the clock. If you do have personal tasks you need to conduct on your computer or phone at work, keep them to a minimum. Otherwise, you could end up in hot water with your boss.