Mon, Nov 17, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Australian companies track employees' Web activities

DPA , SYDNEY

A recent survey by consulting company Andersen Legal found that almost three-quarters of Australia's top 100 Web sites collect personal information on their visitors.

Perhaps more surprising for Australians is that employers also snoop on their workers, gathering information on what sites they visit and warning them off distasteful ones.

At government-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) staff are told up-front about monitoring and alerted to sites that are off-limits.

Those who disregard company guidelines risk the sack.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that software on ABC desktops alert users to pornography, gambling and other leisure-related sites through pop-up dialogue boxes.

"The ABC does not regard the material contained in this site as reasonable for personal use," the pop-ups warn. Ignoring the off-limit signs, employees are told, "may result in disciplinary action including the termination of your employment."

Departmental heads get a monthly report on violations of the code. While most get off with a warning, there is at least one case of dismissal.

There are benefits to being open about monitoring.

In a recent wrongful dismissal case involving another company, a fork-lift truck driver claimed ignorance of restrictions on using company computers.

An ABC worker wouldn't get far with that defense.

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