Study: One-third of workers' Net use is monitored


July 15, 2001


A study confirms what many employees have feared -- the number of businesses monitoring what their workers are doing on the Internet is growing.

A study by the Privacy Foundation found that more than one-third of U.S. workers with Internet access at work are systematically monitored by their employer.

The increase in the number of companies that monitor their workers' online activities is due partly to the availability of cheap surveillance software, and the increasing concern about potential liability stemming from worker's e-mail.

Of the 40 million U.S. workers who have Internet access, 14 million are constantly monitored, the study found.

Worldwide, the study found that 27 million of the 100 million workers with Internet access are being monitored.

The latest surveillance software allows employers to monitor and record all Internet activity. Federal law gives employers wide latitude when it comes to keeping track of what workers are doing, particularly when on company time and using company equipment and accounts.

If you have Internet access in your office, chances are you've read and signed an acceptable use policy. Remember that any e-mail you send from an employer's computer or account is property of the company. What you think is a private communication really isn't when sent from the workplace.

HBO WEB SERIES. HBO is launching a Web-only mystery series that it hopes will attract Internet-savvy teen-agers who take active roles to solve the disappearance of 16-year-old Deadwood, Ore. teen Jessica Fisher.

``The Deadwood Mysteries'' will run for 16 weeks, beginning July 16. The Web site,, will have complete background and details leading up to the teen's disappearance.

The series will be heavily promoted on the HBO Family cable channel.

While ``The Deadwood Mysteries'' are a first for HBO Family, episodic Web sites are not new.

``The Spot,'' which debuted in 1995, was one of the first and the leader of episodic Web sites. It failed to attract sponsors and was later shut down.

But early success and buzz created by ``The Spot'' sparked a host of imitators, including ``The East Village'' and ``The Pulse,'' an online drama by Ralph Lauren Fragrances.

Will ``Deadwood'' succeed where ``The Spot'' could not? Perhaps. Millions more people have the Internet in their homes, and the promotion by HBO Family could at least keep the series interesting.

For more information, visit the series' Web site by going to

INTERNET BANNED. Afghanistan's ruling conservative Islamic Taliban movement has banned the use of the Internet in an effort to stop access to what it called vulgar, immoral and anti-Islamic material.

The Afghan Islamic Press reported a government official saying that the Afghan government wanted a system it could control as far as content in violation of Islamic law.

The hard-line Taliban movement follows a strict interpretation of Islam not shared by other Muslim countries. Religious police enforces most Taliban decisions.

There are no estimates how widespread Internet access is in war-torn Afghanistan. Telephone access and electricity aren't widely available outside major urban areas.

NAPSTER STILL OFFLINE. By court order, file-swapping service Napster remains offline.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel told the company it must fine-tune its software so no copyrighted songs slip through its system.

Even one copyrighted son is unacceptable, Patel said. The judge requires Napster to stay offline until it can prove that it can block access to all copyrighted works on its system.

Napster will need the court's approval to resume operation.

Additionally, Napster has settled lawsuits filed by artists Dr. Dre and Metallica who sued the service for allowing their copyrighted works to be swapped illegally.

Napster agrees to block the artists' copyrighted songs, and the artists agree to make their songs available once Napster becomes a fee-based service.

MORE MUSIC NEWS. Digital music mogul Michael Robertson, CEO of, says the fee-based file-swapping services that music labels are creating will fail to ignite the listeners' interest the way that the MP3 revolution has.

Robertson said the services would fail because they don't allow consumers to keep the music if they end their subscription, or play the music on other devices.

The popular MP3 format is getting some competition from other digital audio formats.

The problem the recording industry has with the MP3 format is it offers no copy protection. Record labels say they won't sell digital content unless they can control distribution and prevent files from being shared as easily as MP3 files.

The oldest competitor is Microsoft's digital music format, Windows Media Audio. It offers the fidelity and quality of MP3s, and the copy protection music labels want. The music player is available for all Microsoft operating systems as well as Macintosh and Solaris operating systems.

The organizations behind the MP3 format have created an upgrade version called MP3PRO. It creates smaller files, and is backward compatible with older MP3 players.

The MP3PRO player isn't free, and like the MP3 format, there's no built-in copy protection. In fact, the format is so new, there are no sources for music encoded in the new format.

Visit for access for a free download of a Windows-only file player.

A group of music enthusiasts-turned-programmers have backed an open-source format called Ogg Vorbis. The format is new and little music is available. Visit to download a free encoder.

The MP3 format is still the top digital music format, but Microsoft will undoubted be the main contender with its format that will see support from the recording industry.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to, or visit on the World Wide Web.

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