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What Information Can My Employer See on My Work Computer?

written by: Lysis10•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 8/9/2010

Although people feel their work computer is private, employers can, in fact, see everything you do on the computer as well as Internet activity using network monitoring tools. The next time you want to browse your favorite shopping site, consider your employer is probably monitoring your activity.

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    Viewing Email Messages

    Your employer can see each email message you send with network monitoring tools available on the server. The only exception to freedigitalphotos.net, woman spying, Graeme Weatherston viewing your messages freely is implementing email encryption. Encryption scrambles the messages so only your recipient with whom you have shared your password key can view the content. Otherwise, plain text emails can be logged, edited, and viewed by your employer. This means you do not want to send any illegal or incriminating content through your employer’s email server.

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    Network Monitoring Captures Your: Website Browsing and Activity

    There are two ways your employer can view your website browsing activity. The first is if the employer incorporates a proxy server. A proxy server is a central machine on the network that funnels all Internet usage traffic. The proxy server logs the client machine gaining access to the Internet, and it records the website on which the user browses. The logs create a trail of where you browsed on the Internet and for how long you browsed the website pages.

    The second method is viewing your Internet browsing history on the local computer. Your browser saves the Internet web pages you have visited in a directory called your “cache." The files saved indicate where you have visited on your computer. This is a simplistic way to check your history, but it is a good indication of where you visit on the Internet while at work.

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    ... And Your Network Monitoring Chat Services

    Chat messaging software such as MSN, AIM, and Yahoo are implemented in some corporate networks. It allows employees to chat with other employees over the Internet without the expense of a phone call. It’s a quick way for employees to chat about legitimate work issues. However, some people chat with friends and family excessively, which causes performance issues. Companies can use services such as Websense network monitoring to log chat sessions and the conversations between two instant messenger sessions. Use instant messenger services with care when discussing company information or complaining about work issues.

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    Screen Snapshot Software

    For increased security and network monitoring, employers can use software that takes a snapshot of your computer screen to view your desktop. This software allows the employer to see all applications you use when you work throughout the day. This is only used in extreme measures, but these screen snapshot applications allow employers to see all your activity.

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    Network Monitoring and Employee Rights

    Some employees believe they have a right to privacy when working from a company computer. Several lawsuits and debates have been brought up over these issues. For most issues, the courts have found that the employer has the right to monitor any electronic activity from the corporate network. Check your employee manual to find out what types of network monitoring services are used by your employer. Because the computer you use is purchased and maintained by your employer, many of your privacy rights do not apply when using email and browsing websites on the corporate network.

    Image Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net, woman spying by Graeme Weatherston