Sunday, August 07, 2005


I was reading an article in New Woman magazine called “Who’s really reading your emails?” and was shocked to find out just how easy it is for privacy to be invaded over the Internet. The article stated that as long as you use “a network, a server, company email or the Internet, then someone can read your emails”. And in fact, a number of people have been fired from their jobs for sending “inappropriate” emails. Inappropriate in this context has meant anything from emails with racist or sexist content to those that contained rude comments about employers. Passwords and log on names pose no threat to IT specialists that choose to invade personal privacy and in most cases, this type of monitoring of online activities is not even illegal. Employers use Spyware primarily to ensure that their employees are not wasting company resources or performing activities that could cause the company to suffer financially or harm the company’s reputation. Spyware picks out the racist, sexist or pornographic content in employees’ emails and other Internet activities but can also just as easily pick out anything else that employers might be interested in. Although one might find it quite appropriate for someone to be fired for downloading porn at work it might be considered quite unfair for someone to be fired for mocking an employer (obviously without intending for him to find out). But still…it happens.
And as this is exactly the kind of system we use here at university; networks, servers and the Internet, it’s kind of scary to think of who could be tracking your online activities…if they really wanted to.



At 6:31 PM, Blogger Spivey said...

A very true article indeed. Anytime you join a network where you are not an owner and are potentially not even paying (or paying very little) to use it, network costs are high. This usaly in turn leads admins (or more specificly, the owning company) to have to watch network resources for violation of UA (usage agreement) which most often state you will not use it for all the above listed including defimation of charecter which includes bosses, coworkers, yada yada. Your on a company paid for network, really shouldnt talk bad about the guy who owns it. Im not supporting privacy invasion, but thats what hotmail is for. Your home dialup/highspeed is for if you want to invest in those activities. Being from the state, the ones that concern me are the goverment invading those such networks to watch my stuff for "terrorism" which is just BS. I work for the state department and can recall a story to put it in refrance, be it disgusting or not, its what happen. A counsler was using a goverment laptop with him on a trip to California, he dialed up to AOL through this computer and watched porn all night, then returned it. The next day as the computer was cleaned (files, not keyboard dirty people) the internet history brought up the browsing and he was released for using goverment property that violates those terms. THe best thing you can do is look up your networks UAs and see what they say, if you dont agree with them, dont use that network. Sucks huh? (to be fair, ive worked as an admin in the past and the stuff that comes up in those filters really has no place on company time or resources and a lot of times is actul very bad for the network, either by bogging it down, or being threatning to company image in public light.)

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

I think the simplest way of avoiding spyware and such when in an IT environment you have authority in [ie home] is to use a software firewall and regularly run programs like AdAware and Spybot - Search and Destroy. Between those programs, spyware/adware won't be able to connect back to the internet and will be cleaned off your computer regularly.

In terms of IT environments and work and such... Sometimes you can use Zonealarm and all the programs there too, but that can mess up how the net is set up by Other People.

And it won't defend against looking at pr0n at university for example. Interesting, that came up as an official query last semester for a postgrad paper called Seeing Sex.

In terms of terrorism, I know a number of people who've been signing off emails and random posts with the phrase:

"Bomb. President. Allah. And a great big hug to our friends in the CIA."

For years. They've been integrating it into websites as well, particularly when the text isn't actually visible to the casual user.


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