26th February 2016
Data privacy issues: Employee security or IT security?

Do you respect your employees' data privacy?

Are you sick of staff using their work PCs to tweet mates? Have you caught one too many employees using their work email address to book a holiday? Are you ever tempted to have a nose at their browser history or access their email accounts to see what they have been up to? According to this BBC article, you could be walking on very thin ice and putting the future of your company in danger…

Since seven judges ruled that Bogdan Barbulescu's rights to data privacy had not been violated when the Romanian's boss read messages he had sent to family using a work account, some employees are treating this as carte blanche to get in there and have a ferret around.

Snooping on staff does nothing for staff morale or productivity. As Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the British Trades Union Congress, says:

"Big Brother bosses do not get the best out of employees… Staff who are being snooped on are less productive and less healthy".

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development backs this up by stating: "Employees that feel under excessive surveillance are also more likely to suffer from stress, so there needs to be a clear case for monitoring."

While you might think checking employees' online activity is in your business's best interests, the Switch2IT team warns you could be barking up the wrong tree. Your suspicious (and often illegal) snooping could perpetuate a culture of mistrust and leave staff feeling persecuted rather than motivated to reach targets. 

Are you overstepping the line with regard to your employees' data privacy? It is not just monitoring staff at work that you need to be careful of, there are myriad guidelines you should follow, from only asking for relevant information on job application forms to keeping staff records locked away. Check out this guide from the government: Data Protection and Your Business.

Productive workforce, secure business?

When all is said and done, it is best to leave the forensics to the experts and take this advice from the Institute of Directors:

"Employees should not be subject to Stasi-style surveillance at work… We would strongly urge businesses not to read an employee's personal messages, apart from in the most exceptional circumstances."

Above all else, encourage a culture of trust and positivity among your employees to inspire happy, productive workers who you can rely on to make your business a success. In this respect, your employees are as important as a solid cyber security strategy. After all, your IT and communications equipment is only ever as safe as the hands it is in.

The vast majority of data breaches, phishing attacks and viruses obtained from plug-in devices such as USBs are a result of human error. In the same vein, businesses with the most best IT security are those who boast clued-up employees. Our article SMES and IT security: Man Vs machine explores this further.

Some bosses of corporate companies are already jumping on the collaborative culture bandwagon. This has been cemented by the launch of Facebook at Work which works in a similar way to personal Facebook and will help to keep training costs down. At the start of last year the social media giants launched this new business networking platform and at the end of last year they added Work Chat to the mix, an associated chat app.

More than 300 companies, including Royal Bank of Scotland and Heineken, are set to use Facebook at Work which Kevin Hanley, director of design at RBS, says is "a key component in driving a more transparent, engaged, collaborative culture.”

Julien Codorniou, Facebook's director of global platform partnerships, adds that the platform is designed as more than a means of communication: "We fundamentally believe that a connected workplace is a more productive workplace… We want to connect three billion employees worldwide. All you need is a phone."

For the sake of your business you need to stop snooping and get your house in order. Start with nurtured, productive employees whose skills and dedication are sure to positively impact your company's cyber security. Then make sure you find a complete IT solutions and technical support provider who offers a managed IT service contract designed to suit your exacting needs and budget.    

Call 0800 083 3416 to find out how Switch2IT can help you to make data protection and IT security a priority for your business. 

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