Davis Ingwers, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Spring 2013 Mass Communication Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the question: “You just landed your dream job. On your first day of work your employer issues you a company laptop. The topic of whether your use of the computer will be monitored is not discussed. Should the company be able to track what web sites you visit or e-mails you send?”
I think absolutely the company should be allowed to track websites I visit and e mails I send. If I’m using a computer that the company paid for, then the company should be able to monitor how I am using it. I think when they give me the computer in the first place, there is an implied contract that I will only be using it for work related activities. It’s not something I think needs to be explicitly said. It really has to do with responsibility. I know as soon as they give me the computer what I am expected to use it for. Should I deviate from that, the company has the right know—it’s their property. It seems a little ridiculous that we feel the need to explicitly discuss whether the computer will be monitored or not. I feel that any good employee would behave the same, regardless of knowledge about the employer’s awareness.
I think as a society we have gotten accustomed to placing the blame or responsibility on others, while we minimize personal responsibility in the process. It should not be difficult to use a company laptop for its intended purpose. That should not even be an issue, but it is—because people don’t want to be responsible for their actions. Especially now, where technology has become much more mainstream, anyone using a company computer or even their Internet connection should assume that his or her use is being monitored. It’s no different at a university, while using the school’s Internet connection—your use is monitored. It is part of the program at this point. To assume otherwise, I would argue, is irresponsible of the employee. You should know how equipment works before using it, and monitoring Internet use is becoming routine for almost any computer.
So in a word, yes, absolutely, completely—a company should be able to monitor their employees’ Internet use. Any good employee would assume so to begin with.
Davis Ingwers is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Telecomm Television Production.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.