Posted By Kathleen David on March 29, 2008
In the policy handbook of many companies today, there are a couple of clauses about Internet usage both on the job and off the job. Most are set up so that if they decide to fire you, they can use your internet usage as just cause since you signed a piece of paper saying that you would abide by the rules of the company. If you share company secrets on your blog or information that they deem proprietary for whatever reason, it is grounds for dismissal. Some go so far as to say that if you bad mouth the company in your web log, it is grounds for dismissal.
What I think some people forget is that many larger companies have tracking software on their mainframes and your keystrokes are being monitored. I was well aware of that the entire time I worked for Randomhouse just because I am very IT aware. But the sites I surfed at work were relevant to my job as an editor gave me a heads up early in my job. Somewhere they probably still have a record of my web usage at RH. I never bad mouthed the company online and I will never do so. Overall I had a very good experience with my time at RH and would be more than willing to work there again.
I think that sharing proprietary information on or off the job is bad form. They are trusting you with the information to do your job. The exception is if something dangerous is going on that could harm people. I remember one case of a drug company that was trying to hide some bad reactions so they could get FDA approval for the drug and someone who worked online and had tried to go through the normal channels to report the problem finally went to the internet to get the word out about the possible harm that could be done.
I take my NDAs very seriously. But what I know would not bring harm to anyone, it is just kind of cool to know before everyone else. The entertainment industry is full of these sorts of things and occasionally someone will mysterious come out of the woodwork with information that the fans goes batty over. Even more so if they are proven right and then they are paid more attention to. Some online bloggers keep their sources very close to the vest so they can get “the scoop”. Harry Knowls has made a living at it as had Rich Johnston.
But I have some concerns about the rules about not showing the company in a negative light on the Internet and if you do, they can use that against you to terminate for just cause. This is not on their time at all but your own in your own web log. If you can’t complain about the idiots that you work with to your friends, then who can you tell? And the Internet is a place to go talk to your friends. I have noticed that any Disney employee who wants to complain against the Mouse chooses the where and how very carefully so they don’t get canned. I haven’t heard of anyone getting fired from a com that complains about their job but most couch what they are saying so it is not a direct slam on a particular company so it would be harder to make it stand up in court but I bet it has happened.
So just a friendly warning out there from me to you about something that you might not know that you even did when you signed those papers for HR agreeing to abide by company policy.
I am grateful that my boss lets me complain if I want to.