Is Your Boss Spying on Your Internet Use?

Many assume that those Americans who are tweeting, updating Facebook profiles and uploading YouTube videos are in their teens. But when it comes to social networking, it’s not teens, but their parents who are driving growth.
According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s 2008 tracking survey, the number of adults with online profiles more than quadrupled after 2005. In fact, more adults use social networking sites than teens.
But adults who indulge in chatting, tweeting and updating their Facebook status at work might find themselves without a job. While many employers allow workers to participate on social networking sites (especially to make business connections), others have formed strict policies against LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, Twitter and similar sites.
And don’t think that employees can simply tweet on the sly. Many businesses are now using employee-monitoring software products, such as Spector CNE Investigator (, to quickly and easily determine who’s goofing off, leaking company information, surfing Web sites or making off-topic Google searches. The software records all instant messages, chat conversations, e-mails, Web sites visited, programs run, files downloaded, files copied to removable media, and keystrokes typed. In addition, Spector CNE Investigator takes screen snapshots, so employers can watch their employees’ online activities in the sequence that they were performed.
While outright bans may seem harsh, employees should do work while at work — few employers want to pay workers to play online games or update their Facebook status. And yet, according to a survey conducted by an IT research firm, Nucleus Research, 77 percent of the employees with Facebook accounts check them during business hours, with 87 percent having no work-related reason for doing so.
Some studies suggest that social networking may improve productivity, so long as visits remain brief and account for less than 20 percent of an employee’s worktime. But no one wants to lose their job because they can’t stay away from Twitter.
Employees with a social networking problem might want to set strict limits for themselves, like restricting Facebook time to 10 minutes a day. If employees are using it for more than an appropriate amount of time, employers will know it if they are monitoring social network usage with Spector CNE.