General Information

article icon

Internet, Intranet and E-Mail Misuse

26 July 2009

CWU Headquarters is aware of a significant trend in discipline cases involving alleged Internet misuse. Many of these involve members who have accessed authorised sites, particularly "eBay" and "YouTube and are then alleged to have accessed inappropriate material from within those sites.

xxx website on screen

It would be a mistake, potentially resulting in dismissal, to believe that just because a site is accessible and authorised, that all material that is contained on that site or that can be accessed from that site is similarly legitimate within the terms of BT's policies. Standards of what is and is not appropriate to access on a BT terminal in BT time need to be borne in mind at all times. It would be extremely ill-advised for anyone to disregard these standards simply because one is browsing within a site that has been freely accessed through the BT network without the intervention of the Firewall.

The safest course of action is quite simply not to access eBay or YouTube or similar sites during work time or on work equipment.

Obscene Material

It is also vital that members do not access, distribute, browse, download, store or forward any material that is, or could be considered to be, offensive, obscene or of a sexual nature.

This applies to words, images and audio files. Anything of a racist, sexist, pornographic, obscene or offensive nature or anything that could offend because of its political nature will be dealt with very harshly by employers, and if proven will be most likely to end up with a person being dismissed.

Restrictions on Personal Use

All companies have restrictions on personal use of company computer equipment, in particular BT where most of our members work. It must also be remembered that anything likely to bring the company into disrepute will also be dealt with as a very serious matter.

People are not allowed to run a private business, sell, or advertise from their BT computer, and people cannot contribute to chat rooms or similar fora without authority. Down-loading anything that constitutes an infringement of copyright including video, images, and music files is also improper use, as is using Peer to Peer (P2P) applications without authority.

Detection of Offenders

It is important for members to realise the extent and sophistication of BT's monitoring of Internet access and traffic across its network. Detection of unauthorised or inappropriate use of the Internet from BT access points (either fixed or mobile) is inescapable.

  • BT Security has access to logs of all Internet access by registered user and IP address. BT's other policies about computer security mean that unauthorised use of an individual employee's equipment or identity is (a) unlikely and (b) in itself Gross Misconduct.
  • Additionally, "forensic examination" of hard disc drives can reveal patterns of Internet usage. Commercially available "clean up" programmes will not erase information sufficiently thoroughly enough to avoid detection of inappropriate accesses.
  • BT's warning screens that appear when attempts to access sites deemed as inappropriate are made are also increasingly sensitive.

A clean past disciplinary record, long service, family commitments and contribution to the business will not save your job in these circumstances, and Employment Tribunals are exceptionally unlikely to view such behaviour with any sympathy.