This is a blog post concerning the content of this article for my participation of a course in English at Karlstad University.
My first impressions from this article are heavily weighted since I studied Information Security this summer. Since companies are responsible for what their employees say and do, if not in court then still in the eye of the public, especially in such branches as security or medicine, obviously they must keep an eye on what these people do. Monitoring e-mail or web use shouldn’t be a foreign and scary concept; it’s no more unnatural than that your big brother keeps an eye on you to keep you from stealing apples because he knows he’ll get the blame.
We live in a society with constantly increasing access to information. Radio, TV, Internet and cell phones. It would be very naïve to think that we can reach all this information without simultaneously letting it reach us. Connecting to the Internet doesn’t just mean that you can access it, but also that it can access you. Similarly, not only can the employer access the employee’s blog, but the other way around.
The issue here isn’t privacy, I think. Things like mailing sensitive information or uploading stupid drunk pictures clearly associating to the company logo are obviously harmful to the company and should be monitored and punished.
The issue instead might be, ironically, information. Someone not informed of what information is sensitive might very well mail it. Someone not thinking of that millions can access his photobucket album might not consider the harm in publishing the pictures there. But does that make it ok? The Information Security course taught me that the company has a legal responsibility to inform employees of things like these, but it is very vague to what degree. Handing out papers is enough in most cases, and then it’s on the employee if he hasn’t read it. How often do we dismiss bureaucratic papers, like license agreements, because “they’re so boring” or “they all say the same thing”? And how many of those papers could we reasonably be expected to read?
And the issue is even more difficult. Should an employee get to call in sick when he isn’t, once in a while? How often is once in a while? Would you respect a boss who lets it go every time? Or just once? Is it too harsh to never give a warning, but just fire the person? These aren’t exact sciences with exact answers; it’s judgment, morals, respect and responsibility. Should your co-worker tell your spouse that you're cheating? Does it matter if he discovers it by accidentally walking into a room, or accidentally opening your e-mail? The same old things, with new technology.
The one thing I do know is that it scares me to let people see and know my weaknesses, and that’s, to me, what privacy is very much about. The freedom of doing stupid things without anyone pointing and telling you how stupid it was. An instinct to keep secret the things that could harm us. And instincts, are they outdated remnants of an uninformed past, or the very core of being human?
I wonder though... I imagine privacy means different things if you ask an American, a Swede and a Japanese.
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