I recently read an article on Content Cops in Redmond Magazine May 2005 (Ok, I know it is September.) and just wanted to comment on this subject.
I know of an organization which has instituted software to block many Internet sites, sites that they feel their employees should not be going to. Some of these sites include newspaper websites (I guess so they don’t see what others are writing about the company), email accounts which give employees free space up to 250 MB (they give their employees a whopping 10 MB and sometimes go up to 40 MB for those that really, really complain), or SETI and other software that runs in the background to search options in such unimportant things like cancer research (because they don’t believe unused computer cycles should be used). In fact, several times their popup window ‘You are trying to access a forbidden site’ has popped up while employees were running their vendor’s softare which is installed on the company’s own web servers.
Now I’m as tired of receiving unsolicited mail from web sites promising to enlarge various body parts, including parts which I do not have, to lose weight, or to remortgage my home. But there has to be a better way to block out objectionable sites and email without massive indescriminate blocking of sites and email.
One employee tells me that they cannot get to a site which hosts information about one of the technologies that they use. He was told to access the site from home instead on his own computer on his own time. I say, if the information is important to the company, then they should provide the means to access it.
Should Internet policing try to tell we what to think, to see and to read and to hide everything else? On the other hand, should people at work be able to sit in chat rooms all day? Unless it is work related to connect employees to other employees or vendors, or clients in other buildings, cities, states, or countries, it does not belong in the workplace. But sometimes it is needed. Should workers use the Internet to go to gambling, pornography or other such sites like local restaurants to order lunch? No of course not. But they should be able to go to sites they need to support their jobs, to learn more about the technologies they are using, to search sites for help with errors or challenging problems they face in their jobs.
In conclusion, any decision on Internet usage must be made with great care because it could be viewed as arbitrary or discriminatory by someone. In the case of the laws of this nation, the courts provide a counter balance. But there is no such balance when corporate American decides what we can or cannot see. I just question how often they bind the hands of their best and most creative performers sapping their energy in the name of blandness because they cannot or won’t differentiate between those performers with valid needs and those who just want to goof-off.