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Be Good for Goodness Sake!

... He's gonna find out
who's naughty or nice....

He knows when you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!

You'd better watch out. You'd better not surf. Especially if you're employed by the Vancouver School Board and you like to look at naughty pictures on the Web.

The Vancouver School Board (VSB) is investigating concerns that up to 15 employees may have been accessing pornography websites on VSB computers (the computers in question were not at a school and no school children were in harm's way). The investigation has just begun, according to The Province this morning, and of course, everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The alleged pornography surfing at the VSB serves as a sober warning to us all. When you're at work, you're supposed to be working. Many employers have policies that either forbid or limit using work equipment and time for personal purposes (my own employer allows "incidental personal use" as long as it does not contravene the law; interfere with access to computing resources by authorized users; or cause the employer to incur additional costs (e.g., excessive use of internet bandwidth). Some employers turn a blind eye to a little bit of personal web surfing or emailing. It's good for morale. You'll be more rested if you can buy that gift for Auntie Mabel online rather than having to rush out to a mall and purchase something. And, if you're like most modern desk-bound employees, you probably sometimes answer work emails and phone calls at home or on vacation. So it balances out, as long as you keep your work-time personal surfing to a reasonable level.

But be warned. Even if your employer is tolerant about the occasional chain email you send to your friends or your playing Lexulous on Facebook, it may be within their rights to clamp down. And, like Santa Claus, they're watching. My employer's IT policy explicitly states that all use of workplace computing equipment is logged and routinely examined by the IT staff. But even if you work for a small company that doesn't have an IT department, there are software packages out there that allow even mom-and-pop shops to monitor computers in the workplace.

So, find out just how much leeway your employer gives you, and use common sense. No pornography. No online gambling. No illegal file downloading. (And keep in mind that a lot of these sites are loaded with malware just waiting to be downloaded to your computer. Your boss will not be impressed if the network crashes thanks to your naughty and careless surfing.) No websites catering to hate groups. Santa Claus may not know if you've been good or bad, but the boss probably does.

As this will be my last column for the year; to everybody, Happy Holidays and here's hoping for a mega-2010!

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