Life is a Mystery

6 May 2004

Personal Use

Today and tomorrow I’m meeting with other CIC Library IT Directors in Chicago. This afternoon the question of productivity use of PDAs and laptops led to a riff on the personal use of public university equipment. Some states (such as Ohio) have very strict ethics laws prohibiting the personal use of state equipment, and all our public universities face some degree of state restriction on such use. I find this amazingly shortsighted. The smaller devices get, the more they become, at heart, personal devices. For the state to go to the expense of buying this equipment, and then tell you that you may not integrate your life using it, is completely missing the point of the technology. Devices like PDAs and laptops, if they improve productivity at all, do so by allowing users to build their lives around the devices. An employee who can readily know what personal appointments are on their calendar or can quickly respond to their daughter’s email query about an evening ride to softball will be a more productive employee as surely as they will be a more balanced person. I understand the ethics concerns behind these restrictions, but can’t we find some way to encourage personal use of equipment as long as it does not interfere with the work purpose of the equipment?

2 Responses to “Personal Use”

John / 18 May 2004 / 8:00pm

I’ve seen many similar attitudes in IT departments. I think many policies are based on fear of some kind of liability. Some are based on lack of understanding of the new technology and a fear of a support nightmare or security breaches. Our IT department went into overdrive a while ago when someone was caught viewing pornographic materials on the internet at work. A new policy came down from above and IT implimented it. Using Novell Border Manager, everyone had to log-in to proceed to the internet and every site being visited was being tracked and monitored. They fired the guy who did it, and there were no more cases discovered of viewing porn on the company PC’s. But everyone else was still subjected to the new security measures. The funny thing is, the Manager of that person did not know what his employee was doing and when the person was let go, it came from above, not from the manager. I feel that when the IT department and upper management set policies based on fear, they undermine creativity and motivation and innovation. Another good example is the edition of chat in our workgroup. We had it on our systems and were using it productively to communicate with each other while working. It was faster than email, more flexible and we were more productive. But when the IT department management found out, they instantly had it removed because ‘instant messaging’ was not allowed on work PC’s. There is definately a difference between serving the business needs of the organization and controlling the organization’s liability or potential liability. But some of the people making the policies don’t see the difference. Controlling the ‘business needs’ seems to be equal to controlling liability. It’s inhibiting to growth.
John

Pam Hoffman / 8 August 2004 / 4:27pm

This may seem radical but as a privacy issue, putting ‘personal’ information on a device (or online) that can be taken away is probably not in someone’s best interest.

I stopped adding emails to my Yahoo! accounts a long time ago. I became aware that I was putting a LOT of ‘personal’ information on a server that, really, anyone could take a look at.

I do everything from my own database. It may be slightly more cumbersome but I’m pretty sure Yahoo! (or anyone else) does not have access to any of it. These are my family and friends – I won’t have that info getting around!

It is entirely possible to ‘lead the way’ and start a company that will have all the things that ‘should’ be ok – like the IM system. Abuse is inevitable and porn sites are reprehensible at the work site. The manager should be reprimaded as well, IMHO.

If I ever got a PDA from work – you bet it would ONLY have work stuff on it.

Pam Hoffman
Eric’s cousin ;)

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org