Free Employee Use Of Internet At Work: Policy Proposals Research Proposal Example
The use of the Internet to access the wealth of information available in the World Wide Web has dramatically changed the socio-economic landscape of the world. The internet can access online communities, social-networking sites, work and non-work related networks and other resources that enable people to communicate and interact in a very fast pace and at a rate that affect levels of work productivity, cultural values, and socio-cultural interactions. Because of the widespread use of the Internet, people are able to communicate better, express their interests and values in a freer manner to a larger group of audiences, and contribute or participate in discussions with people of similar values, interests, aspirations, opinions or ideologies .
In a business environment, the use of the Internet has marked positive effects on productivity and efficiency. For example, businesses are able to link with other businesses to interact and create value at unprecedented levels. Business owners are able to contact potential human talent for acquisition using tools that make locating suitable employees with viable job opportunities very effective and efficient. Managers are capable of keeping abreast with local and international developments, which are needed for making timely decisions or recommendations.
However, the many advantages of using the Internet in the workplace comes at a dangerous price as well. The use of the Internet may create avenues where rights are violated, productivity is negatively affected, and businesses are endangered. Thus, this memorandum is issued upon the request of the company Chief Executive Officer for the purpose of understanding the perils of Internet use at the work place and specifically is commissioned to determine the following:
The possible torts that employees may commit as they utilize the internet at work;
The possible crimes that employees may commit as they utilize the internet at work;
The possible liabilities that the business organization and the employee may be faced with as torts are commissioned or crimes are committed as employees utilize the internet at work;
Determine the violations of the duty of care or duty of loyalty that employees commit when social media sites are accessed during working hours;
The privacy rights or concerns that employees may have regarding the use of the internet during working hours; and
A listing of the appropriate laws that are needed to protect employees and/or employers in relation to Internet use at the workplace.
The results described in this report come from various sources, including but not limited to published information found in the public domain, opinions and suppositions acquired from interviews, secondary statistical information collated by various public and private agencies, and other materials pertinent to the topic.
Possible Liability for Employee-Committed Torts
The business organization may be liable for torts that employees may commit as they utilize the Internet in the workplace. A “tort” is defined simply as a “civil wrong”. This civil wrong causes another person or party to suffer or be harmed, which means that there is a legal liability for that person that has committed the civil wrong. The person that commits the tort is called a “tortfeasor”. Usually, victims of torts can recover their losses in the form of “damages” which are proven in the judicial courts through the process of submitting “law suits”. Prevailing plaintiffs prove that the actions taken (or lack thereof) are a legal and recognizable civil wrong.
In the workplace, business organizations and employers may face the possibility of being legally liable for torts as their employees utilize the Internet to access websites, especially those that are social networking in nature. Possible civil wrongs that may cause legal issues include defamation and harassment, especially if the targeted person is a customer, co-employee, or competing business organization or affiliate.
Employees are liable to commit computer crimes without them realizing it. The main reason why computer crimes are committed is because there are many different definitions and interpretations of “computer crimes” such that arguable cases of them being committed or not abound. There are obvious incidents that are considered criminal in any case. For example, hacking into another person’s bank account to divert money is criminal. Using someone’s identity over the Internet is criminal. Promoting child pornography or white slavery over the Internet is criminal. These acts are illegal by their very nature and are punishable by law.
However, there are incidents that are vague, which results in vague treatment of their legality. For example, the use of broad emailing tools to send out marketing information could be dismissed as a simple marketing ploy but can also be considered as a grave misuse of the Internet. The use of the Internet has changed the way we communicate in a qualitative manner . The qualitative change in how we communicate has necessitated the change in the legal framework as it relates to the Internet. Because of the fast pace by which the Internet is evolving, laws must considerably evolve at a similarly fast rate as well thus making the definition of computer crimes equally volatile. It is therefore important for the company to recognize that certain actions are criminal but those outside what can ordinarily be recognized as criminal must fall within careful evaluation since laws have not expanded wide enough yet to consider all activities as unlawful.
Recent developments show that even major organizations are affected by computer crime and that these major businesses experience significant damages due to crimes that have been committed by external forces or even by company personnel. Companies that have been affected include the Sony group, which was recently attacked by hackers, the Citigroup, Dell, Mastercard and even RSA . These companies incurred significant financial and reputational damages, exposing these companies to a series of litigation and liability related actions. The liabilities that these companies face include liabilities related to privacy breaches that may result due to an unintentional release of information or privacy breaches due to the failure of the company to secure its systems. The company is also liable for civil fines, penalties and other payments as a result of these privacy breaches. To save its reputation, the company must then issue customer notifications, which result in additional expenditures and customer support requirements. Finally, these companies face business interruption expenses, which is the greatest liability that the company can possibly incur.
Violations of the Duty of Care or Duty of Loyalty
Duty of Care and Duty of Loyalty are common concepts of the modern law. These concepts are linked to the business judgment rule, which is the basis for the standard of conduct for business organizations . Together, the concept of duty of care and duty of loyalty are viewed as common concepts that involve self-interests and therefore are ruled accordingly. Violations of duty for example are a case of gross negligence. Because of this occurrence, business judgment rules became linked to prohibitive actions against self-interests. An employee or business manager will commit an act violating the trust of the company when that person is involved in any transaction where his own interests conflict with that of the company. This normally happens when the person in question knows or is affiliated with a person that is involved in the transaction. The motivation of both persons is financial in nature.
In the workplace, employees commit negligence by way of duty of care or duty of loyalty when they visit social networking sites due to the fact that they are violating the trust of the company of using resources for productive means. There is a clear conflict of interest in this regard that employees do not realize they are committing. The self-interest in not financial in nature, there is an underlying financial implication. The important issue that is detrimental to the business organizations is the loss of productivity due to violations incurred by employees when they visit social websites.
Employee’s rights to privacy include keeping their possessions private, their persona emails confidential, and the right to use their telephone for personal conversation. However, these rights are curtailed if the employee uses their company email for personal messages or their company phones for personal conversations .
That being said, employees are privileged with maintaining their right to privacy. Employers do not have the right to examine or involve themselves in actions that would cause employees to give up their right to privacy. However, the business organization should be concerned with how employees acquire pertinent and sensitive information and how these gathered data is utilized. As an example, some employers do not hire potential employees on the basis of religious affiliations or social ideologies. Employers from the social sites of prospective employees often research these facts. The use of this type of information violates the neutrality of the hiring process and can categorically be a violation of the employers right to privacy.
In some cases, business organizations have instituted a limited right to privacy to their employees to ensure that the company’s systems are protected. For example, Japanese companies institute access to employees’ computers and databases to ensure that employees do not misbehave by way of using company resources for personal gain. In these cases, the business organization gains access to employees’ computers in an expansive and investigative manner but only to deter possible issues that may transpire in the future.
There are many laws that now protect the privacy of employees that relate to their use of the Internet in the workplace. In the United States, the laws surrounding privacy are based on the tort “invasion of privacy” which is a common civil wrong that prohibits people from intruding into the affairs of private individuals. This includes disclosing information about the person’s activities, stating wrongful information about the person that would cast that person in a disagreeable perspective to common folk, or using the person’s name and reputation for personal gain. The concept of privacy is based on the human right to be alone. If this right is invaded, the person can file a lawsuit and get compensated for damages to address the violation of the said person’s right. In the basic tenets of the United States’ laws, this includes the Fourth Amendment (that states the right to speak freely), the First Amendment (that states the right to free assembly) and the Fourteenth Amendment (that states that persons have the right to undergo the due process of law) .
In 2010, the United States made strides in employee privacy with federal and state courts deciding in favor of providing higher levels of protection to the privacy rights of employees. Prior to 2010, employees did not have highly stringent privacy rights within their places of work. US employers traditionally could use company policies to freely monitor, review and act on employee communication such as email and Internet usage. If and when found in violation, employers have the ability to impose sanctions on employees such as poor employee ratings which affect their financial and economic well-being .
Employee privacy and rights of employers are two key common law items that require considerable study. On one hand employees often take their rights for granted and are not mindful when people go to work to perform their duties. On the other hand, employers often misuse this fact to abuse employee rights. While it is considerable that employers are at risk due to the many violations that employees can commit, it is also true that excessive prohibitive policies will curtail employee rights to the point there their basic rights are abused. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the incidence of privacy abuse is one of the highest types of abuse in America and is not clearly addressed to the complicated nature of employee-employer relationships and its effect on the economic viability of businesses and the social and psychological impact it may have on the American labor force .
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