Monday, 17 December 2007

Shot down point blank

It finally happened today: Access to blogs at the office has been blocked altogether. With all the rest of the blockages and with new blockages being added on a daily basis, the issue of internet access has now become the talk of the office.
Personally, I have decided that being passive about will not take me anywhere. I therefore concluded to write a letter expressing my opinion on the matter of internet access at work, but due to a collection of reasons I deemed an anonymous letter to be the better option. Since, however, I am generally of the full frontal confrontation view, I have decided to post a lightly censored version (devoid of any identifying info) on my blog. After all, with blogs being blocked, it's not like anyone at the office would be able to trace it:

I am an employee writing to you anonymously in order to complain about the recently introduced limitations to internet access at the office.
On 5/12/07 we have all received a rather laconic email from the Helpdesk telling us that as of 6/12/07, “we will be making a couple of changes to Internet access”. What has followed since seems to be more like a massacre than a couple of changes, with a large number of websites becoming inaccessible for often vague reasons. While most of the websites that have been blocked have nothing to do with work, some actually do.
Currently, websites that have been blocked display a message saying “Your access to the site has been blocked according to internal policy”. However, I had a look at the policy document linked to the message, and that policy says nothing about employees not accessing “personal pages” (the error message received when trying to access a work related website), nor does it say anything about any other type of websites other than those containing sexual content. If anything, what the policy does say is that employees are allowed to reasonably use the internet for private purposes.
And that is exactly what I am complaining about. I see nothing wrong with me or any of my colleagues accessing the internet for private usage, the way I see nothing wrong with me or my colleagues using the phone from time to time to make a private phone call or even occasionally stepping out of the office on a private errand. We have also been known to have coffee breaks and smoke breaks (for the record, I don’t smoke), and so far our self proclaimed “employer of choice” have been fine with that. Further, I maintain that having such privileges actually improves the quality of our work by helping us relax after a tight meeting and by creating a positive working atmosphere. Why is it, then, that we have suddenly been placed under Orwellian scrutiny when it comes to internet access?
Now, I do suspect there are some good reasons for blocking internet access to employees: things like cost, security issues, and employee abuse. However, none of these reasons have been communicated to us, the employees; all we know is that one day we had acceptable internet access and the next day we have been robbed of something that by now everyone takes for granted and everyone is used to.
Besides, I suspect that all of the above mentioned arguments – cost, security and abuse – can be easily countered. I wouldn’t mind seeing the case for this recent internet blockage act, if it was actually prepared (I doubt it), because I strongly suspect its arguments would be quickly countered. It simply doesn’t make sense to take us back to medieval times! The internet, after all, is a tool we have been enabled with only because it is an incredibly effective working tool. Who is it, then, that has been suddenly bestowed with the insight and the wisdom required in order to decide what the best tools for me to perform my work with are? Why is it that the tools that were previously deemed as useful working tools have suddenly been taken away from us in a rather unprecedented act? And who was it that decided to rob me of the creativity that is often gained when new ideas come up through random web searches?
Let’s not beat around the bush and address the private usage of the internet, too: Who amongst us has the authority to become a de facto censor and decide which websites we are allowed to privately surf to during work time (like, say, the so far unblocked website of The Age) and which ones are forbidden (using excuses such as “personal”, “open image” or “games”)?
It is my impression that someone has suddenly been granted with way too much power at their hands and decided to show it off. Without much thought, without due process, and without proper communication.
In conclusion, I hope that the protest rising from the ranks together with the wisdom of our managers will prevail in order to set things back the way they used to be. I have addressed this email to you in the hope that you are the right channel for such issues; if that is not the case, I would appreciate it if you could forward it to the suitable authority. In the mean time, allow me to use the opportunity to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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