Saturday, February 19, 2011

Be careful with work-related use on your own computing resources

As I noted on my “IT jobs” blog, it’s become more common for people to get legitimate work-at-home jobs, which may be hourly, commission, or be paying them as independent contractors. Some of these opportunities are predicate on people having their own computers and broadband connections and using their own cellular service, and sometimes other services like fax, as for signature paperwork.

Also, more of them are becoming predicated on the worker’s using social networking sites for work promotion purposes.  Perhaps this comports with a nouveau theory that a person with integrity has only one public “identity” that integrates work and personal (hence the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” thinking).  No double (or multiple) lives anymore; no schizophrenia.

It’s not hard to imagine situations where a person could get into trouble with activity authorized by an otherwise legitimate employer.  For example, a person might have only a “home” license for Microsoft Office, but if he or she is using it for work, a Professional or Business copy might be required to avoid copyright infringement.  (Conceivably that could apply to bloggers who earn ad revenue, too.)

A person might be expected to mass “mail” through an ISP or Facebook in order to get leads for a commission driven business (like an insurance agent), and get in trouble with TOS violations for generating “spam”.  It might happen with work-related blogging if it involved anything viewed as “link farming”.

 Generally, the individual would be held responsible for violations individually and could lose accounts or access even if done for the benefit of the employer.

Or an ISP or cellular service might expect to gain a subscription fee from a separate account in the name of the employer, in some cases. 

The possibility that work-related Internet use at home could lead to legal or TOS issues with service providers ought to be more carefully explored. This discussion inverts the more common problem of personal use of computing services at work. 

(See also posting on IT jobs blog today.)

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