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March 2006

This chapter is from the book

THURSDAY: MARCH 16, 2006

THIS WEEK’S FOCUS: Computer Security and Privacy

PRIVACY IN THE WORKPLACE

There’s no hiding from the man. When you’re at work, every move you make is subject to some sort of surveillance. Some of that surveillance comes in the form of monitoring your physical activities (via hidden video cameras and tracking of pass card use); some comes in the form of monitoring your online activities.

If a company wants to, it can monitor virtually everything its employees do while seated at their computers. Keystroke logger software can track which keys you tap on your keyboard; email sniffers can examine the contents of your incoming and outgoing email messages; website sniffers can tell your boss which websites you visit—and what you do while you’re there.

According to a recent report by the American Management Association, nearly 75% of all U.S. companies use some form of surveillance to spy on their employees. And the Center for Internet Studies, which studies Internet addiction in the workplace, reports that 60% of companies have disciplined employees for inappropriate Internet use—and 30% have had to terminate employees for Internet abuse.

Surprisingly, some employers are quite tolerant about how their employees use their computers and Internet access; other employers, however, view any such excursion as an inappropriate and unallowable use of company resources. In any case, these snooping activities are almost always legal—so there’s nothing to keep a company from spying on its employees but its own corporate conscience. Surf at your own risk.

ON THIS DAY: FIRST LIQUID-FUEL ROCKET FLIGHT (1926)

On this day in 1926, whiz-kid Robert Goddard launched the first U.S. liquid-fuel rocket flight from a field in Auburn, Massachusetts. The rocket achieved a height of 41 feet before the rocket nozzle melted and it returned to Earth 2.5 seconds later.

SOFTWARE OF THE WEEK: NSCLEAN

One of the best ways to keep your web surfing private is to better manage the cookies that certain sites leave behind on your PC. To that effect, I recommend NSClean, a very effective cookie cleaner that works with all web browsers. Buy it for $39.95 at http://www.nsclean.com.

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