August 30, 2002
Big Boss is watching...?

tranquileye has brought out an old classic that maybe should be revisited in these times of new blogs popping up every minute:

N. Y. Times' "It Isn't Just Big Brother Who Is Watching"-article deals with employees getting fired because of their employers' opinion of the contents on their personal websites:

After six weeks on the job, Barrett was dismissed. "The owner told me that two of my female co-workers read my fiction, got scared, shared it with their husbands and then went to my boss and said, 'Either he goes or we go,'" Barrett said. "They thought the character in the stories was me."

Now Barrett, a specialist in new media, stocks groceries on the night shift for $8 an hour, with no benefits. His former employer declined to comment.

And though there hardly seems to be a national epidemic of people losing their jobs over their home pages, Cameron Barrett is not the only person in this situation. Workers in Virginia, Texas and California said they had been dismissed or disciplined for the content of their Web pages, even though the pages are maintained with their own computers, time and money. Others said they had been ordered to modify their pages.

Quite shocking really. Maybe NZ Bear is doing the right thing by keeping his identity well-hidden:
Is N.Z. Bear your real name?

No. It is indeed an alias.

Why the alias, coward? Are you chicken?

Well, yes and no. I don't particularly care if I potentially endanger myself by pissing off wackos. (And if I am not pissing off any wackos, I'm not accomplishing my goals for the site). However, I do have family, and they have the same name as I do. And so I'm uncomfortable with the possibility that, remote as it may be, some wacko might decide to show up on my doorstep and harass anyone I hold dear. And so, an alias.

Add his employer to that list of people he doesn't want on his doorstep...

Update: Now employers also have the possibility to snoop into your personal email messages if you use services like Yahoo or Hotmail:

David Sobel, general counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, equated private Web-based e-mail account with an employee receiving a personal letter through the company mailroom. The contents of such a letter are protected by U.S. mail regulations.

“The question is: Is there a reasonable expectation of privacy? I would argue that if a company.com account is provided to me for company business, I can assume it might be subject to monitoring ... but if I take additional step to set up a Hotmail account that I occasionally access from my desktop at work, I think that could be construed as an expression of an expectation of privacy.”

Nevertheless, the spyware makers generally argue that employers have the right to observe anything that happens on company-owned computers.

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Comments

It's a worry. I work for a 'big oil company' in a fairly senior postion. Exploring this idea of 'openness' is a risky one. This is a case where it went wrong for a senior London police officer - http://www.richlyon.net/weblogs/corporate_eye/archives/2002/02/radical_openness.php#000062

In practice, I voice no personal opinion on my company itself (coward!) and am fairly selective in what entries I choose to log...you be the judge.

Posted by: Rich on August 31, 2002 12:18 PM
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