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Is 'Little Brother' watching you?


New software tracks your Internet use at work

March 4, 1997
Web posted at: 10:58 p.m. EST (0358 GMT)

From Correspondent Don Knapp

LOS GATOS, California (CNN) -- In a quiet cubicle, on a silent computer screen, a worker can roam the Internet -- checking out sports scores, chatting with friends or even sneaking a peek at an X-rated site.

It's nobody's business what a worker does, right? Wrong. It's the boss's business. The courts say so. Now, the boss has the tools to easily keep tabs on an employee's Internet wanderings. Big brother or, in this case, Little Brother -- now available for the Windows 95 platform -- is watching.

"Where they go, what site, Web site, whether it's Penthouse or anything else like that, Little Brother goes out and it looks at where they go," said Jens Anderson of Kansmen Corp., which makes Little Brother software.

"And, in addition to that, it's an Internet resource management tool," he said.


Little Brother keeps files on workers' computer use, logging what they see, how often and how long they see it and how they use the information.

"It's an employer's dream," Anderson said.

It might also be a worker's nightmare.

"It makes me uncomfortable, having someone watch everything I do," said Wallace Wong, a computer worker.

But employer Stewart Hulett says he wants to know about his employees' productivity, based on the kinds of sites they look at.

Site blocker

In contrast, the Surfwatch software from Spyglass Software Company keeps employees from seeing what the boss thinks they shouldn't see.

"Currently, we are blocking over 21,000 Internet use groups; gopher; chat; sexually explicit; violent, drugs and alcohol sites," said Spyglass's Sami Bray.

Some computer professionals don't like having their employers spy on them.

"You should be outraged by the fact that employers feel they have a right to do this," said Karen Coyle of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility.

"That they don't need to inform the employees, that they're willing to put the employees in an embarrassing situation."

Outrage or not, it is legal, so be forewarned. If you're using a company computer, someone may be watching.


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