Child Pornography on Company Time?
News recently broke on Pentagon employees and contractors downloading child pornography with government computers. It seems outrageous to say the least and yet I would be lying to say I have never seen this behavior on company time. Every employer is at risk and this situation only highlights why every company needs to have a solid policy in place regarding use of company equipment as well as internet communications and social media. The digital media landscape is ever evolving so a policy should be reviewed by an employment attorney but I have this advice:
A solid Computer & Electronic Communications policy should clearly outline the intended purpose for use of computer and software. There should be no reasonable expectation of privacy for anything stored or sent via company provided equipment including but not limited to: phones, emails, computers, fax, and cell phones to name a few. It is advised that some designated staff be delegated and accountable for proper monitoring of computer activity including site visits and downloaded content. It must be clear in the policy that such communications and usage is actively monitored. While it may seem obvious that one should not transmit viruses or violate law it is important to clarify specific expectations regarding “inappropriate” use.
Furthermore, such a finding as this is not only a misuse of company property but a potential crime. In the case of the Pentagon it goes so far as to threaten National Security. Illinois is one of many states that has enacted a Statute that requires technology workers to report any discovery of child pornography immediately to law enforcement officials. Thus, every policy should include notification that employers will contact law enforcement if and when applicable. In addition, this brings to question training for not only all personnel but specific response training for technology and HR professionals that would be called to respond. This can have emotional implications for all involved and is a good example where a good Employee Assistance Program can play an active role.
Never assume your employees know what is “reasonable” use of company property as everyone’s perception of what is “reasonable” varies. You should have clear expectations and they must be communicated and acknowledged.