Massachusetts to Monitor Employees' Net Use

Massachusetts recently contracted with a company to provide agencies with the technology to monitor the Internet use of its employees.

Burlington, Mass.,-based Elron Software Inc.'s CommandView Internet Manager is Web-based software that alerts supervisors when surfing abuse occurs. The company's CommandView Message Inspector performs similar duties on electronic communication in the workplace, including e-mail messages and personal data.

W. Todd Sims, director of information technology for Boston, said his agency has been using Internet Manager for about a year, and aside from a minor reconfiguration of the network needed to install it, the product has been effective.

"It's a very easy-to-use tool that allows you to get a clear picture of what's going on with the Internet at your [agency]," Sims said. "We always speculated about nonbusiness [computer] use taking up employee activity time, and this is a clear-cut measure of how the various uses of the Internet are cut up."

Sims' department oversees the IT needs of 52 city agencies, including all of public safety, and is responsible for about 4,000 computers. He said the goal is not to become a "policing authority," but rather to provide the various department leaders with monthly reports on their employees' Internet usage.

"The department heads should decide whether the use is appropriate or not," Sims said. "It's like using the phone for personal use; it's tolerated to an extent, but we don't want to be nailing down the Internet to a point where it becomes ineffective."

The state placed Elron on the statewide contract in mid-December, and about six agencies, including the Massachusetts Highway Department, have signed on in the last few weeks, said Ray Zamagni, an Elron spokesman. The other agencies did not want to be named in order to keep their Web monitoring private, he said.

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