Letters to the editor

A Reality Check

I read your articles related to "Reality check" [FCW, March 19] and have a few comments.

1. Security on the Web is a hidden expense that many people are avoiding. It costs a lot to have adequate means of verifying who is sending an order or verifying a receipt. The telephone network has a much better record of ensuring reliable connections between people.

2. Personalization on the Web is still in its infancy. Most e-commerce companies are not willing to maintain a personal context for each of their customers online, whereas most commercial entities have extensive files, with the ultimate [example] being click-stream analysis and customer relationship management.

3. In many businesses, profitability comes from being able to charge different rates to different customers. Some unprofitable customers are even good for business as long as they cover their direct costs. The Web works against this flexibility.

4. The human touch is missing. Almost everyone values the chance to talk with a person more highly than [they value] the chance to talk to a computer.

I hope that these things are obvious to you, but I did not see them in your articles.

Name withheld upon request

Personal Use? Hogwash!

I read the comments by Treasury Department [chief information officer] Jim Fly-zik in "Limited personal use is OK" [FCW. com, March 15]. Does he really believe all that hogwash? Government agencies have tried to crack down on Internet abuse of computers at work (notice I have used the word "abuse," whereas he actually said "personal use"). He stated further that it's an impossible task and that government should not even try to police it (more hogwash!).

It has been my observation that going "unchecked," Web use becomes part of some employees' daily business: Looking for a new home, checking the weather, looking at NASCAR [sites], maybe doing some stock trading.

Soon we find employees downloading tons of music, hundreds of pictures of their favorite race car driver, new slick programs and then eventually a nice little virus that sends every e-mail address in our organization to a hundred thousand other government employees and civilians.

Then there is the case of the spy tools (playing with the network), loads of games and neat graphics. Have you ever heard this one: "Using these game programs will enhance my professional skills"?

All of this occurs on your — taxpayer — time. Em-ployees normally do not do this on their lunch hour. That seems to be their time.

I really do not see evidence of controlled use of the Internet in the workplace. On this infrastructure, we require a firm policy of business only: NO downloads, NO self-installs, NO games.

"No" seems harsh, but guess what? The federal government actually expects me to work eight hours per day or take off on sick leave or annual leave. I do not think taxpayers need me sitting here pondering my next stock investment or developing my personal skills with a challenging game of hearts across the Net. If we have so much free time, then maybe I am overstaffed? What a novel idea!

Here we have seen fit to make a policy that's pretty easy to understand: Government business only. We explain that this means no downloading (games, music, pictures, etc.) unless directly related to and required in the performance of your job.

It also means that you cannot come to work early or stay late to use government equipment for personal use. Left unchecked, we found that our "pipes" to the Internet were clogged with streaming video, music and a ticker tape parade — and that prevented us from sending our financial data out for processing by the payroll center.

Well, hmm, if they missed one paycheck because they had the Internet pipe clogged with Napster, I wonder if they would excuse me?

Steve Foster
Information technology manager
Naval Air Station
Pensacola, Fla.

Limited Abuse

Regarding your March 15 FCW.com article "Limited personal use is OK," unless "limited" is clearly defined, this sounds like limited abuse.

Where is the "limit"? What about users who download music files or video clips or radio programs? How much of a federal network's bandwidth is an employee allowed? How much are they allowed to interfere with the business of a federal agency?

Without clear limits, limited use will become limited abuse by some employees.

Name withheld upon request


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