According to research by networking giant Novell, 40 per cent of UK employees between the ages of 25 and 34 use the Internet for non-work purposes during work hours.
News like that is typically accompanied by details of a product that promises to tackle the problem. In this case it is Novell Bordermanager, which is designed to allow companies to control all access by employees to suitable Web sites while boosting the speed and performance of access to Web pages.
All hype aside, cyberskiving and misuse of the Internet in general are becoming increasingly thorny issues for IT and network managers alike. While the Internet has brought obvious business advantages, the sheer scale of Net abuse in the workplace is becoming very difficult to ignore.
The most popular diversions appear to be soft pornography and sports sites. The same Novell survey found that 23 per cent of men know of someone at their place of work who uses the Internet to access pornographic material. Yet only 57 per cent of respondents claimed their company had any policy against such cyberskiving.
In the US, Nielsen Media Research analysed computer logs at IBM, Apple and AT&T and discovered that employees visited Penthouse magazine?s Web site 12,823 times in one month. And research earlier this year by independent analyst Zona revealed that 75 per cent of hits to Playboy?s Web site came from corporate users in Fortune 500 companies. But formulating a policy to combat Internet misuse is tricky. Threats of job loss can impede creativity.
For ?head down? workers ? automatons involved with data-entry tasks ? time or site-based blocks are unlikely to impede productivity. But for ?head up? knowledge workers, policing Internet habits may hinder both experimentation and innovation.
Anyway, if half the staff are visiting the Playboy Web site when they should be working, then a company clearly has a bigger problem than any Internet policy is likely to solve.
court in the act: dos and don?tS on the net
m Do consider time-based restrictions. With a permanent leased line, unrestricted access during the lunch hour is unlikely to harm anyone.
m Do use audit trails on employees and establish which sites they are visiting for business purposes. If the same site is being visited for the same information, it can be held on the LAN server in cache, so subsequent employees don?t waste time by dialling out again. But watch out for potential copyright infringements by creating an entire mirror site on the business intranet. If unauthorised, such actions are infringing owner?s copyright.
m Do involve the personnel department. If an employee is systematically abusing Internet guidelines, a recognised set of disciplinary procedures will need to be followed.
m Do be aware of the Data Protection Act 1984 which regulates the collection and use of personal data about individual users. If you?re collecting data about the visitors to your site you may need to register under the act.
m Do include the option of text links in URL documents when maintaining your company Web site. A URL that includes only an image map and no text is often inaccessible to users who don?t have access to a graphical Web browser. Also, include a date of last revision when authoring URLs, so users linking to the site know how up to date the information is.
m Don?t forget about patents. Some software can be protected by patents. If programs are part of a product you are distributing over the Internet, take the usual precautions against patent infringement.
m Don?t use music with your site unless you own the copyright both in song and sound recording or have permission to use them. This must include the right to synchronise the music with the images that appear on the site.
m Don?t publish defamatory statements. The law of defamation applies in cyberspace. Publishing can include drawing attention to another?s statement, which may include hyperlinking.
m Don?t forget to include a file size ? for example, 10Kb or 2Mb ? next to the description when including video or voice files. That way a user can work out how long it will take to download the file.
All copyright legal information provided by the specialist computer law group, Bird & Bird. Contact the company on 0171 415 6000. Additional advice supplied by Arlene H Rinaldi from Internet Guidelines & Culture.
The most luminous galaxy ever discovered is cannibalising at least three of its smaller neighbours, study finds
The galaxy radiates at 350 trillion times the luminosity of the Sun
Researchers modify genetic code of cancer-killing virus so it can target cells that protect cancer from immune system
Changing the genetic coding causes the infected cancer cells to produce a protein that kills the fibroblast cells that protect cancer
The findings can help improve the current understanding of brain development disorders, such as epilepsy or autism
Dubbed HD186302, the solar twin is located about 184 light-years from Earth