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Report Finds More Aussie Gov't Workers Misusing Internet

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the surely-that-would-never-happen-here dept.

Australia 90

destinyland writes "A new report to Australia's parliament announces a 54% increase in government workers misusing the internet. In fiscal year 2010, 313 different federal workers came under investigation for improper use of e-mail or the internet, up from just 202 in the previous year. The report — available online as a PDF file — also discovered that nearly half the investigated workers were in the Australian Tax Office, according to an Australian technology blog. 'Maybe it's just a case of particularly boring work making such distractions more attractive,' they suggest, since the report blames most of the discovered cases on one-time incidents of poor judgment."

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More likely a change in enforcement (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453158)

Huge year-to-year changes are more likely to result from changes to enforcement rather than changes to actual behavior.

Re:More likely a change in enforcement (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453736)

Exactly. The article also lacks a good definition of the term "Misusing Internet." There exists a wide continuum including banking, shopping, reading news, playing games, forums, social networking and outright industrial espionage. There is also the question of whether these activities are done on break time or not.

Re:More likely a change in enforcement (1)

lorelorn (869271) | more than 3 years ago | (#34456060)

It's more likely a change in the rules and/or a change in their definition of 'misuse'. The rules for this change all the time and the same site can be blocked or unblocked (like Slashdot!) depending on the whim of the IT Director. But certainly, it's not due to a change in behaviour.

Re:More likely a change in enforcement (2)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457144)

In this particular instance it's more likely to be related to the fact that the tax office had a major problem with their computer systems during fiscal year 2010 and the tax office couldn't actually process diddly squat for several months and therefor these drones had no work to do.

Need to send a message (5, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453160)

I demand the Australian Government sends a strong message that this won't be tolerated. They must dissolve the Australian Tax Office.

Re:Need to send a message (-1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453528)

I demand that you tell me why I give a shit what government tools in Aussy Land are doing whith their pants down in front of a computer.

What did we learn FTA? (4, Insightful)

Aerorae (1941752) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453182)

Government workers are people too. Just like the people in businesses all around the world shopping for shoes on the clock.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (0)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453294)

I'm a bit surprised that there isn't any policy barring this sort of thing. I guess it probably depends what the job is, but if you're just needing access to email and a couple of known sites, whitelisting those sites and blocking everything else isn't that hard.

I remember the last time I had a job with internet, they were pretty clear that the connection belongs to the employer and that any use of it for anything that wasn't specifically sanctioned would lead to discipline.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453406)

And do you have any idea what that would do to employee morale? To work for a place that's that draconian? You'd lose more productivity to that then you ever would to the internet. Not to mention many of your best employees would leave over time to any of the 99% of employers who don't give a fuck so long as your work gets done.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453934)

Memorize all your pr0n before leaving the house, and recall images as necessary.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (3, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 3 years ago | (#34459250)

What about those of us that DON'T have a pornographic memory?

Re:What did we learn FTA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457180)

You'd lose more productivity to that then you ever would to the internet. Not to mention many of your best employees would leave over time

LMFAO ... are we talking about the same Australian government here?

You know, the one where your boss doesn't mind you knicking off to the shops at 2pm in the afternoon for 'just a few hours' ... where 'hire a contractor' is a gentle euphemism for 'get something done' ... where the word 'fired' is only used in reference to the choice of pizza on Friday evenings ... where another water cooler is never enough ... where every staffer down to the guy cleaning the dunnies is pulling home massive tax benefits ... where the more money you spend, the more money you get ... where having 'responsibility' refers to doing nothing except one task ... where working after 5pm involves triple time benefits ... where acquiring severance payouts and re-acquiring your previous job has become an art form?

It's lazy, slack work with excellent benefits and gazillions of people whose only concern is not losing their cushy jobs. You could replace all the chairs with pointy wooden sticks and nobody would quit.

Wish they could mod higher than 5... (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#34459804)

Parent is right.

Hell, why not treat it as a benefit, like free sodas? I recently managed to talk our employer into doing just that... As long as you're not divulging company secrets, moonlighting, or surfing pr0n on our machinery, well? We really don't give a shit as long as you get your work done.

As a bonus, I don't have to futz around on the proxy as much building reports on who may be goofing off, which in turn gives me an extra hour during the week to go do something useful on the network. It also means that folks aren't spending as much time trying to circumvent the system. Now certainly we block production tools from reaching the Internet (they're on their own insulated subnets, so it's drop-easy to wall them off), but office computers are only proxied enough to keep things efficient.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (4, Interesting)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453416)

Although superficially logical, I dislike this attitude. Relaxed, happy workers are generally more productive and of greater value to the company - showing them respect (and giving them the chance to blow off a little steam) by simply stating that they must maintain an acceptable level of productivity (hard to quantify, I know, but decent management should be able to roughly gauge how much work someone's getting done) is likely to work a lot better in the long run. Basic rules about illegal downloading and the like should obviously be in place, and if an employee is messing about online to the extent that it's detrimental to their work then of course disciplinary measures are in order, but telling your workers exactly how they must behave breeds resentment - telling them what they have to achieve and leaving it up to them to decide how to do so is a far more sensible tactic.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (2)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453574)

happy workers are generally more productive and of greater value to the company

I spotted the problem in your logic above. We're discussing government agencies, not a for-profit company. Governments, as a rule, have always treated their civil servants with the least amount of civility possible. And production apparently never enters into the equation, which is why when on the rare occasion they have enough people to do the job in a timely fashion, they cut the budgets, shed a truckload of them and delays once again become the norm. Standard operating procedures for government agencies of any size, from cities all the way up to nations.

My prediction? Draconian rules will be applied, overall workplace misery will increase, and nothing else will change.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453998)

> Western governments, as a rule, have always treated their civil servants with the least amount of civility possible.

Fixed that for you. Ever heard of a Civil Service Exam? If you want government not to suck, you make it competitive to work there, just as the best companies are today.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (1)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454076)

Gov't jobs here IMO are usually on par with the levels of draconianism of private industry if not more lenient. The inneficiencies are generally from the bureaucracy, so there is usually ample time to goof off while waitingfor requests to go through.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34455618)

As a worker for the Australian government i can agree with this, there is a blacklist of "inappropriate material" like porn & gambling websites much like you get at most work places, and i do spend quite a bit of my time on the internet "browsing slashdot" or as i like to call it "researching".

that being said, i was the only one in my department to exceeded all my KPI's (i'm the only developer in my department but you get the idea) in the last quarter, so my excessive web browsing isn't detrimental to the industry and my boss mostly turns a blind eye, it keeps me relaxed at work, current with the motions of the industry and a happy worker, which means I'm less likely to freak out when the work load piles up, because the mentality is "once all this work is completed properly, i can then somewhat relax again", which ends up with a relatively low staff turnover, and cheaper staff.

at my old private sector job, any moment we weren't working we were barked at to "get back to work", this place had a massive staff turnover and is going bust because they can't keep the product knowledge in the company.

The inefficiencies are generally from the bureaucracy,

we have meetings to organize meetings. and it took over 6 weeks for my position to get approved.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454458)

Indeed. The only people who governments treat with less respect than civil servants, are the ones paying the bills...

Re:What did we learn FTA? (0)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453796)

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't think that screwing around on the internet doing non-work things ought to be acceptable. Personally, I don't want to have my morale harmed by being asked to pick up the slack because there isn't enough productivity to cover the work needed. Doesn't matter whether it's too few employees or too much goofing off online.

Unless a job requires the internet as one of it's functions it's easier for everybody to just not have it, or agree that you're not going to use it except during lunch or break periods.

But, more than that, whenever you allow the internet in you're opening yourself up for lawsuits. Not sure how it is in Australia, but in the US you can easily find yourself in the position where you're being sued for sexual harassment and if you're really lucky you tell somebody not to view porn and they sue you for discriminating against an individual with a sex addiction.

Not suggesting that it's a good thing, but it's hardly unreasonable for employers to want to be cautious.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (1)

victorhooi (830021) | more than 3 years ago | (#34455130)

heya,

Sorry, but I think it's not just case of being old-fashioned, but being blind to how things *really* were like before.

See, the thing is, as other posters have noted, so-called internet "misuse" is easy to monitor. You just check your firewall/proxy logs.

But in the olden days, if a worker was distracted, or chatting at the watercooler, or just staring off into space for a few minutes, you couldn't really log that (unless you had audio surveillance at work, as well as mind-reading devices). Heck, they could have a fat reference handbook out, and the latest edition of New Scientist tucked inside it, and you'd be none the wiser.

But these new tools (like the internet) give employees more ways than ever to track every second of their worker's lives.

We don't want to get into a 1984 state, where workers are afraid to even think non-work-related thoughts. Fortunately, most employees have strayed away from that sort of mentality. After all, most of us are professionals. There's a certain understanding with our work - they pay your salary, and you get the job done. Sure, you can goof of a bit, you can take go take a walk around if you're feeling tired, but as long as you're reasonably professional in your conduct, and you get the job done well, most of them are happy.

Cheers,
Victor

Re:What did we learn FTA? (3, Insightful)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#34455744)

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't think that screwing around on the internet doing non-work things ought to be acceptable. Personally, I don't want to have my morale harmed by being asked to pick up the slack because there isn't enough productivity to cover the work needed. Doesn't matter whether it's too few employees or too much goofing off online.

It strongly depends on the job. If your business only requires mouth-breathers, you can do what you want, because you're scraping the bottom of the barrel anyway; they're desperate. But if you need employees with some degree of intelligence/creativity/etc, and you go all control-freak, you will lose all the good ones.

Your choice I suppose.

[Of course logic rarely has anything to do with it -- authoritarian bosses tend to be that way for personal reasons, not because it's actually the best way to run their business...]

Re:What did we learn FTA? (4, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453422)

whitelisting can be a bigger sometimes though.
I know when trying to figure out wierd application errors googling is generally the fastest way to find people who've had the same problem and how they've fixed it.
I'd hate to be working on similar problems with a whitelist stopping me from viewing the thousands of tech support forums out there.
I'd waste countless hours getting the same or worse info from documentation or trying to figure it out from scratch.

ever tried to work out what "assertion error 266" or whatever the cryptic error is without google?
With google: 20 seconds.
without google or the internet: 20 minutes to hours.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453476)

ever tried to work out what "assertion error 266" or whatever the cryptic error is without google?
With google: 20 seconds.
without google or the internet: 20 minutes to hours.

This. All the time.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 3 years ago | (#34458248)

I'd hate to be working on similar problems with a whitelist stopping me from viewing the thousands of tech support forums out there

It can be done. You really need to have google's old preview working though. You used to get to it by doing a standard search, and then opening up "more search tools". You could see a paragraph or so of the relevant information, and often that was enough to figure out how to solve the problem. It's not there any more. I really wish google would turn that feature back on. Hint, hint.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (2)

obarel (670863) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453460)

People monitor the things that are easy to monitor, that's all.

It's very easy for the IT department to log every improper use of the internet connection, but not so easy to make sure that people work while they sit at their desks.

Are they thinking about work right now, or about their dog's broken leg?

Do they keep making mistakes and then correcting them (strictly speaking a waste of their employer's time and money) or maybe working more slowly than what they're capable of?

Are they annoying their co-workers (thus reducing their productivity) by speaking to the computer while they're working?

Three are many many ways to waste the employer's time on the job, it's just that "misuse of IT" is so easy to monitor. When I see a report about the various ways people drive their colleagues up the walls I'll start taking IT abuse seriously. Until then, 5 minutes on Facebook is much better than constant farting.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (3, Interesting)

BarryHaworth (536145) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453480)

I'm a bit surprised that there isn't any policy barring this sort of thing. I guess it probably depends what the job is, but if you're just needing access to email and a couple of known sites, whitelisting those sites and blocking everything else isn't that hard. I remember the last time I had a job with internet, they were pretty clear that the connection belongs to the employer and that any use of it for anything that wasn't specifically sanctioned would lead to discipline.

Oh, there's a policy all right, and a comprehensive system of filtering of content. Without having a copy of the policy in front of me (I'm not browsing Slashdot at work :-), sites such as online email and social media are are prohibited outright and will display a "Blocked" message if you try to access them, others are questionable in some way and will display a "Coached" message, meaning that you can still click through, but be warned that your access is being monitored and you may be called on to justify accessing that site. Other sites, such as online banking & news sites, are specifically allowed in the policy, so long as access is infrequent and brief and does not interfere with regular work.

This occasionally pops up a few unintentional ironies. Last year there was an article in the weekly internal newsletter about the ATO's new Facebook Fan page which included a helpful link. But when you clicked on the link - Blocked! Another time a work related email list I subscribed to posted a link to an XKCD cartoon (this one I think: http://xkcd.com/552/ [xkcd.com] - I'm a statistician), but clicking on the link brought up the message: Blocked: Category Humour not permitted.

Occasionally it is even useful - is is not uncommon to browse a news site and see the article text just fine, but have many of the ads replaced by Blocked messages.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (3, Insightful)

obarel (670863) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454940)

Blocked: Category Humour not permitted.

That is the saddest message I have ever seen in my life.

whitelisting known sites has download fals for rea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453492)

whitelisting known sites has download falls for real work and can lead to big work slow downs with the sites move there pages around.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (4, Insightful)

obarel (670863) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453360)

I don't even know what "Improper use" is. Shopping for shoes online? Sending an e-mail to your wife? Checking the news, weather, traffic jams? Going on Facebook?

Strictly speaking, even going the toilet is a waste of public money. But seriously... is day-dreaming for five minutes better than going on the Internet for five minutes?

Re:What did we learn FTA? (2)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453392)

Agreed, way too vague. And indeed treating people as dumb automaton that always work 8 hours a day is a horrible idea in most cases these days.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (4, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453408)

IMHO "misusing the internet" should only apply for sending spam, doing DoS attacks, hacking other computers, and things like that. If I look out of the window instead of working, am I misusing the window?

Re:What did we learn FTA? (1)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 3 years ago | (#34455958)

As someone who went back to school after 10 years in the workforce, I really understand how poor this is. I waste time like nobody's business while at "work" now. But you know what? My brain is working the whole time. 2 hours surfing the web, and I might just figure out what's not working in my code. I might go home, and on the bus ride back, figure out what the problem is. I might get home, pour a beer, put my feet up, feel guilty for wasting 4 hours that afternoon, and crank through more work than I would have at work.

I've been on the clock before. I've had a timecard. I've had mandatory, checked-in-upon start times for work. And I think that now, with no set hours, no enforcement of my work, I do better work than ever before. I have one weekly progress meeting with my boss. That's it. The rest is totally up to me.

I slept until 11:30 this morning. Got up and ate some pizza, watched some football, and popped open a terminal to go with the first beer of the day. I got work done while drinking beer and watching football. This evening, I'm closing in on two sheets to the wind, but I think I've figured out a problem that's been ruining things for weeks. I'm going to fix it. Watch some more TV, drink some water so I'm not totally hung over tomorrow, and then I'm going to bed. I'll put the "late alarm" on. Why? Because I need my sleep after this. I'll get to work at some point tomorrow.

Happy, low stressed employees get shit done. I wouldn't trade this for all the high paying jobs I had previously.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453412)

> I don't even know what "Improper use" is.

Well, some Microsoft programs used to violate the RFCs - adding their own nonstandard headers to various protocols, that sort of thing.

That's probably what they mean.

Re:What did we learn FTA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453494)

My old housemate used to be an IT technician in the Aust. federal government. When they weren't dealing with internet abusers in their department they spent plenty of time abusing the internet themselves. Who will police the police?

Re:What did we learn FTA? (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453740)

Improper use is a grey area, however some people should just apply common fucking sense and see their interpretation is pitch black of what is and isn't improper. Gordon Brown buying stuff on ebay in the middle of a parliamentary sitting is improper. These buffoons get paid a fortune to do a small amount of work and even then they don't pay attention.

Not improper enough? How about Kiddy porn viewed on parliament computers [smh.com.au]

Re:What did we learn FTA? (1)

mibe (1778804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454428)

Agreed. That's taxpayer funded poop they're flushing!

Re:What did we learn FTA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34456482)

Obviously the REAL improper use is reading Slashdot!

Re:What did we learn FTA? (2)

Mordie (1943326) | more than 3 years ago | (#34455408)

Government IT departments just cant deal with the crappy government policiy. and so we spend our time on slashdot, hence the huge number of workers slacking off not fixing government computers. oh wait....

How extensive are the investigations? (2)

AllWorkAndNoPlay (1952586) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453228)

Makes you wonder what costs more: 313 federal workers shopping for shoes on the clock, or the 313 investigations into their behavior that ensued.

Re:How extensive are the investigations? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454474)

They will be conduced by federal workers, who will spend much of the time looking for shoes, apparently. So, it blows up very quickly.

Slashdot? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453230)

Has Australia's parliament read slashdot? They would be addicted of misusing the internet too.

Oh no. (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453372)

After years and years of abuse by the Australian government and the laws they made concerning it, now the internet also has to suffer the misuse by Australien government workers.

Would someone please think of the electrons?

Re:Oh no. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34454200)

Just for the sake of clarity. The Australian Government has not actually made any laws about the Internet. They've just talked about it.

is this even worth bothering about anymore? (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453396)

Maybe it's different in areas other than tech, but in technology, both in industry and in academia, there isn't much correlation between the productivity of a worker and their tendency to "misuse the internet". There are plenty of very productive people who also post on Twitter a few times a day, take a brief detour while googling for an answer to a tech question to answer a question on StackOverflow that came up in the search, glance at a few mailing lists, and check their personal gmail compulsively. Especially for people under 35 or so, it might actually correlate positively with productivity: the kinds of people who can't keep themselves from answering StackOverflow questions, reading / posting on mailing lists, etc., are often much more proactive and plugged into many parts of the tech scene, compared to the people who just keep their head down and put in their 8 hours.

Re:is this even worth bothering about anymore? (4, Interesting)

javakah (932230) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453438)

From what I've seen of this, the flip side of this is that such people are also much more likely to be checking work email, etc. after hours. So if something suddenly comes up during non-normal hours, it's more likely to be dealt with quickly as part of a give-and-take approach. It's a blending of personal and working life. Yes, you do have to accept that some personal matters will be dealt with during work hours, but work matters will then sometimes be dealt with during personal hours.

Re:is this even worth bothering about anymore? (1)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 3 years ago | (#34455990)

You hit the nail on the head. I just posted above how much more productive I am with no set hours. I have a weekly progress meeting with my boss. I work in my head while surfing the web, on the bus ride home, with my feet up and a beer in hand. I work drunk off my ass, on a sunday night. I get shit done, set the alarm late, and sleep in.

I've had time cards, punch machines, and morning check-ins. I do so much more work with nothing more than a weekly progress meeting. And I love life.

The big key here is that bureaucracy is self-propagating. You make a position, and someone will make sure that they have shit to do. If you make a "make workers more productive" position, they sure as hell aren't going to go, "well, boss, they're about as productive as they can be. No reason for me to have a job." No, they're going to do a survey on internet use, and then use that to justify why you need to pay them. Not that it makes anyone do a better job....

Re:is this even worth bothering about anymore? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453524)

i am ok with this but it's not the realtime...immobilier [dopimmo.com]

Re:is this even worth bothering about anymore? (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453704)

If your company is large enough, it can provide a participatory body that's of positive value to the company. Set up an internal corporate wiki, a corporate stackoverflow, a corporate forum, and a corporate blog site. Encourage your employees to spend some time participating in online activities that mutually benefit each other.

Will it be as useful as stack overflow? Probably not, but it may be more specific, and you can discuss company ideas and applications without breaking confidentiality.

Re:is this even worth bothering about anymore? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454412)

One thing that isn't often considered is that we all use multi-tasking OS's and sometimes whatever app you're using to work is the bottleneck. If your work program is spending 2 minutes doing a file save, where's the harm in doing a little shoe shopping while you're waiting?

Re:is this even worth bothering about anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34454956)

Especially for people under 35 or so, it might actually correlate positively with productivity: the kinds of people who can't keep themselves from answering StackOverflow questions, reading / posting on mailing lists, etc., are often much more proactive and plugged into many parts of the tech scene, compared to the people who just keep their head down and put in their 8 hours.

Make that 45, son... and in my case ServerFault instead of StackOverflow. Some of us grew up with the Vic 20 and still consider ourselves netizens of the first degree.

I agree with your post wholeheartedly though.

Aussies, keep em of the internet! (2)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453440)

Don't get me wrong, under normal circumstances I love the Aussies. But they are such bad winners. Whenever I lose a game of chess to an Aussie they say: mate mate. Come one - I can see it's mate! Don't have to tell me twice. A bunch of insensitive clods, that's what they are!

Re:Aussies, keep em of the internet! (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454250)

Whenever I lose a game of chess to an Aussie they say: mate mate.

Have a Meal Mate, mate. [youtube.com]

Never accessed a non-work related site? Much! (1)

aarggh (806617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453508)

If this is just one-offs in judgement as indicated, big deal! There's a vast difference between people like the completely useless bozo I unfortunately work with who spends the entire day alternating bewteen MSN, and Facebook, and people who might access the odd online shop or whatever inbetween work. It's funny how the OZ Gov can blow billions on wasteful projects, (the insulation scheme of death comes to mind, along with Myki), but they worry about a number of people who might have used internet for a non-work related issue?

Re:Never accessed a non-work related site? Much! (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34455492)

What you don't realize is that that useless bozo is saving tones of productivity by spending his day on the internet. Otherwise, he'd cause about 9 man hours worth of damage for each 8 hours he worked.

Good for handwringing(esp. if porn); but boring. (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453552)

These studies about (almost always public sector) workers and their terrible, terrible internet misuse seem like little more than ammunition for the handwringers, and maybe a couple of privatization zealouts.

Reality: Unless chained to an assembly line, under guard, most workers are going to spend some minutes a day doing some form of "nonwork". Particularly for people whose work involves a mixture of thinking and typing, it won't even be trivial to distinguish between work and nonwork, and for people whose work involves manual labor, one has to make the distinction between "rest" and "slacking off".

Given that the internet is a bottomless well of amusements, as well as an excellent way to check personal email, pay that credit card bill you just remembered to avoid a late fee, queue up a netflix item while you are still thinking about it from that conversation at lunch, etc. it seems pretty obvious that most of the white-collar nonwork is going to be internet related(and almost 100% of the visible kind is. If somebody spends 10 minutes 'cleaning their desk' in order to avoid work, nobody will ever know. If they spend 10 minutes on reddit, IT can know completely automatically.

Now, as "IT" for an institution myself, I can sympathize with IT trying to block certain sorts of extracurriculars: I don't want to get a BSA beatdown because you were on warez.ru. I don't want to spend my already overstretched time battling viruses because you just had to download free smilies and/or goat porn. If the institution's attorney's come to me and say "We are being sued for creating a hostile, porn infested work environment." I would like to be able to say "Well, we have measures in place that meet or exceed industry standards for professional content filtering; but, as no programmatic filter can be perfect, we do ultimately depend on HR's training and disciplinary procedures." rather than "Well, goodbye to my career..."

However, again in "IT"'s shoes, I don't give a fuck if you want to check your gmail, balance your checkbook, or do some online christmas shopping. If it doesn't mean legal exposure or substantial likelyhood of time consuming or costly network damage(thanks to 3rd party ad networks, virtually any site is a potential risk, but the known hives of scum and villainy are worse...) If your performance sucks, hopefully your performance reviews will reflect that and get you fired. If your performance doesn't suck, the cost of a few megabytes off our big fat institutional connection is A)sunk, we pay for the pipe whether we use it or not and B) probably less than your paperclip budget for the year. I. Don't. Care.

Worker productivity is not a problem that you can solve by dicing up their workday and micromanaging what happens during every second. Decide what performance you want, fire people who don't meet it, keep people who do, promote people who exceed it. Don't fuck around with meaningless(but easy to measure) minutia: that is practically the definition of "cargo cult management".

Re:Good for handwringing(esp. if porn); but boring (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453648)

If I hadn't already posted, I'd give you all my mod points for the next month! I sincerely hope that most companies (and governmental organisations) realise the wisdom in this line of thinking.

Re:Good for handwringing(esp. if porn); but boring (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453720)

Oh, one other thing (this one actually causes the most friction with the users): we in "IT" generally have to block streaming music sites. This one strikes people as arbitrary and draconian; but the logic is actually pretty clear: unlike streaming video, which is bandwidth intensive but only somebody heading for a pink slip will need more than a few minutes a day of, streaming audio can easily replace the radio.

Since our primary business is not internet related, we only have a nice-but-modest commercial connection setup(ie. multiple redundancies; but actually a bit under 100Mb/s down for over 1,000 users). Since user traffic is quite bursty, this is virtually never a problem. Most user downloads are remote host limited, and against fast remote hosts 1-2 megabytes a second are not uncommon. However, if we assume that "streaming audio" means "64-128Kb/s, per terminal", even a solid 100megabit line could only support 1600 concurrent 64Kb/s or 800 128Kb/s users, and that only if nothing else where going on, which isn't the case.

I suspect that other moderate to large sites are fairly similar: their pipes are faster, and almost definitely more redundant, than what comes to your house; but if evenly divided(instead of burstily divided) among all users across a site, they are actually pretty under-provisioned. Since real-world traffic is typically bursty, they'll run like a bat out of hell if you catch them at the right time; but if the entire accounting department is tuning in to 128Kb/s EZ-listening, that could easily eat 3/4 of the pipe...

Re:Good for handwringing(esp. if porn); but boring (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34454426)

Oh, one other thing (this one actually causes the most friction with the users): we in "IT" generally have to block streaming music sites. This one strikes people as arbitrary and draconian; but the logic is actually pretty clear: unlike streaming video, which is bandwidth intensive but only somebody heading for a pink slip will need more than a few minutes a day of, streaming audio can easily replace the radio.

Speaking as a user, the difference between "arbitrary and draconian" and "annoying but reasonable" is how it's presented.

All too often IT practices are presented as "This is a company resource. IT can institute whatever fucking policies we want, without having to explain ourselves. If you don't want to bend over and take it, quit." However accurate this may be, this comes off as arbitrary and draconian. On the other hand actually explaining, as you did, "constantly-on streaming radio takes up a lot of bandwith -- it would cost the company too much money to allow it" makes it sound like you have some sort of reason, and aren't just banning it because you're misanthropes, hell-bent on eradicating all signs of happiness.

Unfortunately there are always a few people who will view any explanation as an invitation to argue. I think most IT guys, in order to avoid dealing with the 1% of complainers, have adopted policies which stick it to the rest of the 99% of the workforce. Where I work, they've done the sensible thing of explaining the rationale of changes/policies up front (e.g. in the initial memo), and then only pulling out the "because we said so" stick out privately for the few annoying individuals who make a pain of themselves. (They also do a good cop/bad cop thing where there's one IT guy who does most of the public-facing work, and another guy who's the one who wields the LART. )

I respect that... (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34461266)

Once I get around to bringing headphones to the office, I'm going to plug it into my portable music player rather than fire up Pandora or something. Fair enough.
I suppose understanding/appreciation of basic IT stuff form non-IT types like me is useful.

My music player has a 2.5mm headphone jack rather than the standard 3.5mm, but I've been meaning to buy a special set or a conversion dongle anyways.

Ooh, we have a literal water cooler in the office too.

How this does compare? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453580)

How does this compare to other misuses? The biggest problem obviously is time wasted. So does Internet add to other waste of time or does it replace it? Does this abuse make them less productive or more productive?

I hate these kind of studies as they are extremely one sided. Used to work for a company that did not allow surfing, so instead people where reading a newspaper. No problem, because it was not easily measurable by looking at a log.

People are not 100% productive. Get over it and start figuring out to praise them by what they do, not punish them by what they don't. Every dogs and raising-kids tv show can tell you that. Management by fear only works for a short period of time.

Don't read the report! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453694)

I can tell you the article must be something worth reading, it's been blocked!

nothing to do with boring work or distractions (3, Informative)

bloodhawk (813939) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453728)

The reason the ATO is so high on the list has nothing to do with behaviour of its staff (at least there behaviour is no worse than any other departments staff) and everything to do with how strictly they enforce the rules. As someone that works with many of the agencies in Aus the enforcement ranges from ATO's strict handling of the issue to many other departments that do nothing at all or hand out warning for all but the worst breaches, hell I worked at one that specifically told me to disable logging as if they logged the traffic they would have to do something about it and they didn't have the policy's in place to handle the legal issues that would arise at the time.

You insensitive clod9.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453746)

isn't a lemo8ade by fundamental took precedence that supports Love of two is in posting a GNAA People playing can NetBSD 4osts on I see the same [slashdot.org],

This implies (1)

The Hatchet (1766306) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453778)

That it is possible to "misuse" a tool that was built to do anything and everything. Sure it is on work time, but if your at your desk during lunch or doing a break at some point, there shouldn't be anything against rubbing one out. Assuming your in an office, not a cubicle anyways.

Miuse of the Internet??!?!?? (1)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453896)

I am all for cracking down on misuse of the Internet... 100%. Just like the misuse of anything! I mean come on, think about it.

  Now the question is, "What is misuse of the Internet?" Which means the question is then, "What is the purpose of the Internet?" The purpose, design, and original intent of Internet access was to communicate openly and link to other content. If we have a bunch of individuals working for the Aussie government workings locking down the Internet, abusing privacy and preventing users from linking or being a part of it in some way, then fire them all! They should have more respect for it and the citizens of Australia. But I guess one can't respect something else if they can't respect themselves...

  Oh wait, this story is mislabeled and really about the Aussie government (politicians) and 54% of the government workers agree? Well, being that most civil servants do what they are told, at least you still have the majority support there.

Re:Miuse of the Internet??!?!?? (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454016)

In the Aussie government you have no rights to privacy for what you do on government computers (rightly so), everything from your internet access to your email and instant messages (if they allow it) can be monitored and read. Internet Access is provided as a means to assist in doing your job and internet access policies nearly always explicitly state that the internet access is for use for specific government business related to your job. However most are at least lenient enough to let you check news, weather and a few other sites. They are being paid by the tax payers to do a job not to socialise on the web.

Re:Miuse of the Internet??!?!?? (1)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454542)

Hear that sound? That was the main idea of my post flying at mach 12 a foot over your head. Well, not completely, you did state they are semi sane not demoralizing and also likely inhibiting their employees with locked down white-list only access.

  But let me help you out, the Aussie government as reported on Slashdot has been flirting with destroying the privacy and free access to the web in many ways. That should be what is an issue to be on Slashdot, this story? Not even in the idle section imho.

Re:Miuse of the Internet??!?!?? (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | more than 3 years ago | (#34455882)

It didn't fly over my head, was just trying to add some facts to it :-). Yes the Asussie government is trying to screw people over on privacy, but to be honest we have no one to blame but ourselves, people sold out to the labor government to get the NBN even though it meant leaving the labor nazi's in power to further remove our rights.

Re:Miuse of the Internet??!?!?? (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454212)

What is misuse of the Internet?

Exactly. As guardians of what is sober and wholesome, I give Australian government workers the benefit of the doubt as to whether it is abuse. If dingo porn is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

Aussie Government and PDFs? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453970)

The report — available online as a PDF file

Wait, wait, wait! Didn't we decide last week on Slashdot that the Australian government shouldn't be posting any more PDFs? They make you go blind, or give you hairy palms, or something.

Sounds like a management issue. (1)

harrytuttle777 (1720146) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454182)

As a former government employee, I can attest to the fact that for large amounts of time I was not productively employed. In my case I knew Big Brother was watching so I did not goof off on the Internet. I did goof off in numerous other ways. The fact that the civil servants were goofing off is symptomatic of a bigger problem. A smart manager would realize that the public stewards just have too much time on their hands, and therefore their jobs can be eliminated. In other words the solution is NOT to ban 'viewing of porn during the work day. It is to keep firing the 'civil servants' until they are so overworked (some would say rightly worked) that they just do not have time to look at naked ladies at work.

-I wish to apologize to the tax payers for wasting their money at times at times. However they should know that I left because I realized that I was wasting their money. There are many many more civil employees who's sins were much more egregious than mine, and they continue to be employed at your expense. For example do you Australians really need PSA telling you to 'be safe' every 15 minutes. These are jobs that can be eliminated.

-Very Respectfully.
-Former public employee who realized the error of his ways.

Fast networking vs Oz copper in suburbia (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454324)

http://www.internode.on.net/residential/broadband/adsl/extreme/performance/ [on.net]
A graph of adsl2+ bitrate as the user gets further away from the exchange.
Add in reality of crushed ducts, old copper, long loops, digital loop carriers (RIM), historical data caps with heavy per mb fines its easy to understand why a fast clean city backhaul like connection is so attractive.
Unauthorised disclosure of information (e.g. leaks) is up too, thats good news :)

like the body or the subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34454362)

misuse the internet ???? , like used it to prop up a falling wall ?? its just as bad as claiming that some one mis-used cocaine, ?? did they use it as wall paper paste or something. or abused it, did they prevent it from eating or something ????????????? perhaps they mean they didnt follow there work contract conditions by using the internet for personal use.

ho de hum

Proxy ? (1)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454604)

Frankly, if workers are able to misuse Internet, this means that no filtering proxy has been set up, and the IT didn't do their job (or at least, the upper management didn't ask for a proxy, probably because they 'misuse' Internet too).

It's easy to fix that: just install a proxy, and block whatever site is 'misuse'.

In my opinion, they should only set a proxy for blocking P2P, other download sites and porn.

At my work, we have a proxy, and the most bandwidth-consuming site is Youtube.

Same as it ever was (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34455032)

Before it was the water-cooler and the phone.

Missing the bigger issue here. (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#34455102)

So according to the numbers reported, 202 (last year) to 313 (this year), is a 54% increase, which means that the Aussie government is run by less than 750 people?
I dunno, that is a big place. I think they deserve some break time.

Re:Missing the bigger issue here. (1)

Arcorn (1209534) | more than 3 years ago | (#34458288)

I can't tell whether you're trolling or not.

54% increase on the number of workers previously doing it.

As a government worker.. (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34455722)

Okay, so I work for the U.S. government, not the Aussies, but I'm betting it's similar there; as a fed, you spend a ridiculous amont of time waiting on things. I see no reason to vilify people who honestly can't do anything but twiddle their thumbs waiting for something else to happen.

As a government IT Security Adminitrator... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34456942)

Okay, so I work as a contractor for an Australian government department, as an IT Security Administrator no less... by accessing pornography, pirated material, games etc. you're opening up a vector for attack which can be exploited by a variety of malware, from Flash exploits to browser exploits, all because you bastards want to use work resources for non-work reasons. Now, I don't care that much if people use work resources for non-work reasons but when it threatens the confidentiality, integrity and availability of various systems on the network then it becomes my problem which in turn becomes everyone's problem on the network. Most of this crap is sent via email and people accessing links from said emails, with the increase of sophisticated social engineering attacks, with some specially crafted for a target, and with the average employee's ability to determine what's real and what isn't (fuck all) it can become a serious problem quite quickly especially when politicians and people with have evaluated privileges for certain systems do it as well.

Re:As a government IT Security Adminitrator... (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457540)

Okay, I guess I wasn't explicit enough here.. I see no reason to vilify people for checking Facebook at work, as that is the kind of 'abuse' that 57% of workers are likely to be involved in. I agree that you should filter for porn, warez, etc.

Re:As a government IT Security Adminitrator... (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34458732)

Unfortunately once management take a hand instead of just blocking malware there is "feature creep" and they decide it is a good way to stop those employees that piss them off by spending a lot of time on facebook (without going to the trouble of actually acting like a manager should and talk to the employee). You get stupid stuff like the blanket ban on any web access like I had to implement today, oddly enough. Of course watching the squid logs while I was setting it up showed that the manager that asked for the complete block was busy looking at sport pages.
I expect to be woken early tomorrow morning by one of the early risers that will tell me that the internet is broken. Once I get in I'm sure I'll be listening to complaints all day because nobody will have the balls to take it up with the guy that set the policy.
It's fifteen years too late to block web access and people will probably spend nearly as much time complaining about it as they would on the net, or they will just play games on their phones or something instead.

Re:As a government IT Security Adminitrator... (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34459292)

Just set the block message to something along the lines of: 'In accordance with company policy by decree of manager X access to this page is blocked until further notice.'. For extra effect add his internal phone number, of course you will then also need to mention your own number too with 'for all other technical non-policy related problems contact Y'.

Re:As a government IT Security Adminitrator... (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34459602)

Yep, have the squid block page set up but all know where the policy came from anyway. However they know that talking back will get them in trouble. It's easier to waste time bitching to the IT guys and try to get some sort of exception. I expect hours of lost time.
Just another pointless petty little annoyance that is trivial on the scale of things but worth mentioning since it's on topic and seems to be happening in a lot of places.

Inefficiency in general... (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34461154)

This came up in a business book I recently read, a hallmark of inefficient work processes - spending lots of time waiting between handoffs of work units, rather than actually completing the work. Sometimes it seems that an order of magnitude more time is spent on waiting.
That analysis looked at the time ti takes a particular work unit to make its way through the chain, rather than the capacity utilization for particular employees; I'm analogizing.

Quid pro quo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34458356)

Quid pro quo. In the UK, they estimate 7Bn in lost revenue and expenses from abuse of work internet.

In an earlier study, unpaid overtime is owed to the tune of 17Bn a year in the UK.

Swap?

Canberra and our bloated federal public service (1)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34458504)

Hello. Aussie here. That these lazy bums are wasting our taxdollars to surf the net doesn't really surprise me. The federal public service in Australia is a huge drain on the taxpayer. The federal government delivers very little to Australia. Most of the services are delivered by the states (paid via a consumption tax) and city councils (paid by rates); health, education, infrastructure.

The federal government really delivers bugger all to the average Australian. They collect taxes through a very nasty federal tax office, blow billions on defence Defence so we can get involved in wars that have nothing to do with us, and the rest is pork barreled out at election time.

But both the Labor and Liberal Party are pro-big government which is why Canberra - the federal capital - is experiencing a huge spurt in growth as these departments bloat up, all paid for by our taxes. The federal public service has a reputation for sloth and corruption, and promotions and hires (supposedly by independent panels) is really based on where your mates or your dad's mates work.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/burgeoning-bureaucracy/story-e6frerdf-1225866150479 [couriermail.com.au]

"Misuse" of internet but "team player" (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 3 years ago | (#34460020)

I love these stories of people 'misusing' internet.

90% of the time it is just people surfing when they have no work to do. That is NOT mis-use of internet, anymore than having people carry a work blackberry when they are not being paid to be working violates overtime laws.

If someone does their job, does not visit porn, does not use up excessive bandwidth, they are not 'misusing the internet'.

If you don't do your job, then you should be fired, and it should NOT matter if you are not doing your job because you are texting/talking to your friends on the phone (your personal one), or if you are using the massively capable communication device sitting in front of you.

Imagine you are a CEO and you ask your secretary to confirm your personal vacation plans. If she does that on the internet would that be "MISUSE"? What if the CEO does it himself? No. Neither is Misuse. It only becomes misuse if the personal stuff gets in the way of your job, and then it is poor work habits, not anything to do with the interent. This is just evil shmucks trying to redefine perfectably normal behavior that everyone (INCLUDING CEO'S) does.

Makes sense (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34461046)

'Maybe it's just a case of particularly boring work making such distractions more attractive,' they suggest, since the report blames most of the discovered cases on one-time incidents of poor judgment."

I'm here posting this instead of doing some data entry. Yeah, it helps blow off steam, but it's also easy to fall into a timesink.

From a former ATO IT employee - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34490008)

I worked at the ATO HQ in their IT section around ten years ago. Even then, the porn situation was so bad that we had a workstation dedicated entirely to scanning the network 24/7 and deleting the most obvious porn from users' home directories and corporate team folders. And this was just the blindingly obvious porn images and videos. We never had time to search for anything which was even lightly hidden, because every time we'd run a search for something like *porn*.mpg, we'd time out after 20,000 hits and have to tell the workstation "Go delete those 20K hits and then search again."

I couldn't say what the regional (state) servers were like, but the national servers were so stuffed to the gills with porn I was honestly surprised that there was room to store anything else at all.

If anyone reading this was also in that team and wants proof I was there, let me just say this: The Alsatian porn video and the executive colour printer. That is all.

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