Ethical Boundaries of Using Internet at Work

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You work for a company that has no specific policies regarding non-work related issues of computers and internet. They also have no electronic monitoring devices to determine what employees are doing on their computers. Are any of the following actions unethical?? Explain your position on each. A. Using the Company’s e-mail system for personal reason during work day. B. Playing computer games during work day.

C. Using your office to do Internet Shopping during day.
D. Looking for a mate on an Internet dating-service, web site during work day. E. Visiting “adult” websites on your office computer during work day. F. All of the above activities conducted before or after normal work hours. G. For Telecommuters working from home, using a computer and internet-access line paid by employer to visit Internet shopping or dating-service site during normal working hours.


Ethics or Moral Philosophy is a branch of Philosophy that deals with questions about morality – concepts such as evil and good, right and wrong, virtue and vice, right and wrong etc.

Business or Corporate Ethics is a form of applied ethics that examine and address moral problems that occur in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business conduct and is relevant to the conduct of individuals and entire organizations.

Work Ethics is again a form of applied ethics that addresses the moral dilemmas relating to individuals at work. Work ethics include not only how one feels about their job, career or vocation, but also how one does his/her job or responsibilities. This involves attitude, behavior, respect, communication, and interaction; how one gets along with others. Work ethics demonstrate many things about whom and how a person is. Work ethics involve such characteristics as honesty and accountability. Essentially, work ethics break down to what one does or would do in a particular situation. The begging question in a situation involves what is right and acceptable, and above board, versus what is wrong, underhanded, and under the table.

However, in the above case study, we will answer one of the simpler yet most common ethical dilemmas present in the modern work place.

A. Using the Company’s e-mail system for personal reason during work day

This is the year 2011. Internet communication has far surpassed the days of email. This is the era of Instant Messaging and Social Networking. As a matter of fact, recent surveys have shown that email has now been relegated to a mode of Official communication and the occasional joke sharing. So much so that the above statement is not a problem at all because email is now used only for corporate communication. So let us examine this from the modern era In a survey conducted by ClearSwift in December 2005, it was found that employees of USA, UK and other European countries spent roughly 21 days an year on personal emails – jokes, sharing etc. But with the advent of Social Networking, a survey conducted by ClearSwift in 2010 May revealed some shocking truths. Most employees spent their work time logged into Social Networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter The report, titled 'Web 2.0 in the Workplace,' found 79 percent of respondents said over and above job role and pay, the most important thing to them in a job included being trusted to manage their own time, and being trusted to use the Internet as they wish. Additionally, 62 percent of employees feel they should be able to access Web/social networking content from their work computer for personal reasons (compared to 51 percent of managers) in order to complete personal tasks.

Given this alarming fact, the decisions a company has to make are quite complex. We cannot simply term this as unethical because almost all employees demand it. However, many firms like Manipal University, Dubai have completely blocked all Social Networking websites but have left email services open. However, in many...
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