INTERNET ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY
Business use of the Internet has experienced extraordinary growth in
this decade. It is now common-place for employees to have access to the
Internet, and as the United States moves ever closer to an information
worker/service type of economy, even more workers will need access to
the Internet to do their job effectively. Although the business uses of
the Internet are many, much of the information available to employees
on the Internet is not related to performance of the worker's job. Thus,
many employers have recognized that unrestricted use of the Internet by
employees has the potential to drain, rather than enhance productivity.
The solution may be to implement a policy outlining the permissible parameters
of employee Internet use, or an Internet acceptable use policy (IAUP).
An IAUP is a written agreement, signed by employees, which sets out the
permissible workplace uses of the Internet. In addition to describing
permissible uses, an IAUP should specifically set out prohibited uses,
rules of online behavior, and access privileges. Penalties for violations
of the policy, including security violations and vandalism of the system,
should also be covered. Anyone using a company's Internet connection should
be required to sign an IAUP, and know that it will be kept on file as
a legal, binding document.
There are many reasons an employer may want to institute an IAUP. The
Internet can be a magnificent source of detailed, current information
that can enhance employee productivity. The Internet also allows access
to a vast amount of purely entertainment-related features. Thus, in a
very real sense, providing access to the Internet carries with it the
same potential for productivity drain as placing a television on every
employee's desk. It is not surprising then, that loss of productivity
is the number one reason for drafting an IAUP.
Another reason to institute an IAUP is to shield the employer from possible
sexual harassment suits. As in most communications media, some of the
pictures, video, sound, and text on the Internet is sexually oriented.
If such material is brought into the workplace, it carries with it the
potential to create a hostile work environment, thereby presenting a potential
risk of exposure to the employer under federal or state prohibitions against
There are also technological reasons to support the implementation of
an IAUP. For example, restricting use of the Internet to only work-related
matters serves to prevent a drain on limited computer resources caused
by frivolous use. Access to the Internet costs a business money, either
in fees to Internet Service Providers, or in hardware costs necessary
to accommodate increased network traffic and data storage. An employee's
inappropriate use may negatively affect other employees' speed of access
or storage space for work product. An IAUP can guide employees concerning
the use of storage space and bandwidth on the system in order to maximize
utility to all employees. Examples of restrictions serving this interest
would be directives against downloading games or other non-work related
files, restrictions on downloading large files that can be obtained off-line,
and instructions to move old or seldom used files, programs or E-mail
to alternative storage.
Employers who have sensitive data on their computer system, be it company
plans, customer demographic data, or product designs may need a clause
in their IAUP concerning trade secrets. It should be made clear to employees
that under no circumstances should proprietary company information be
passed though the Internet, or that such material be encrypted if transmitted
over the Internet.
Employers should institute guidelines which prohibit illegal use of the
Internet in general. A directive that employees take care not to violate
copyright laws should be included in every IAUP. Gambling via the Internet
may also be a concern, and an IAUP should contain a prohibition against
such activity not only because of its potentially adverse affect on productivity
but also because the activity may be illegal.
We can provide your company with sample IAUP policies to help prevent problems before they arise. Contact us at the phone or link below.