Judges suggest Web monitoring

A committee of federal judges has recommended that Internet usage among the employees of the federal courts be monitored, in the wake of some employee opposition to the practice.

The Judicial Conference's 14-judge Committee on Automation and Technology recommended that the courts take "appropriate steps" to block traffic from sites such as Napster, Gnutella and Quake. The action involves computers connected to the court's nationwide network.

In its report, the committee recommended using the CIO Council's model Internet usage policy on an interim basis as a minimum standard to define appropriate Internet use among court employees.

Eventually, this national policy would be tailored to the judiciary, and individual courts would still have the option of making their own local Internet use policies more restrictive, the committee said in a report released Monday.

The committee also said that courts should notify users, before they connect to the Internet or the court's internal network, that the system is subject to the interim policy or other more restrictive policies.

The committee released the report in the wake of an internal debate over what constitutes appropriate and legal monitoring of employees' Internet use. On May 24, the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council directed its staff to disable intrusion-detection software over complaints that it was also inappropriately monitoring employees' visits to music and other sites.

The Judicial Conference, which is the policy-making body of the courts, will vote on the recommendations at a Sept. 11 meeting.

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