This document discusses the rationale and procedures for law enforcement employees' Internet use with agency computers.
A survey by Information Week Magazine found that 40 percent of employees spend at least 1 hour a day surfing the Internet for other than business-related purposes. If these employees work for public entities, all of their Internet communications--including incoming and outgoing e-mail messages, records of visited and "bookmarked" Internet sites, and downloaded files saved to the computer--are subject to requests for examination. This makes it imperative for law enforcement agencies to set policies for employee use of the Internet via agency computers. Michael Overly, an attorney who wrote "E-Policy: A Guide to How Corporations Can Deal With the Internet," recommends that a public agency adopt a clear, concise Internet-use policy that will reduce the potential liability to employees and the agency while protecting confidential information and reducing waste of the agency's computer resources. Overly's specific policy recommendations are to inform employees that all their uses of the Internet are subject to viewing by other parties; instruct employees on how they can maintain confidentiality in their Internet communications; inform employees about what they can and cannot do while on the Internet, including ownership of downloaded and stored files; and make clear to employees the disciplinary response for employee misuse of the Internet. Although Overly does not advise employers to eliminate all employee use of the Internet for personal matters, this use should not adversely impact the employee's work performance or the operation of the agency's computer system.