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Latest and greatest tech, but what about a solid AUP?

With so much at stake with the use of technology, businesses are taking a sober look at how employees use technology on the job. It’s become routine for employees at businesses and other organizations to sign a written statement agreeing to use the employer’s resources according to acceptable use policies or AUPs.

BellSouth is one of those companies that requires employees to sign such a policy agreeing that the electronic communications of the company are utilized for appropriate purposes only. Company spokesman Mike Walker, director of external affairs, said BellSouth’s definition of electronic communications includes but is not limited to the following:

• Corporate data communications networks

• Internet and Intranet access

• Electronic mail

• Voice mail

• Numeric and alphanumeric paging

• Interactive paging

• Instant messaging

• Wireline telephony

• Cellular and PCS telephony

• Cordless telephony

• Commercial radio

• Other communications systems and devises which
perform similar functions.

“All BellSouth employees agree to follow BellSouth’s ‘Code of Conduct, Our Values in Action,’ which incorporates an employee’s use of electronic communications as well as BellSouth’s ethics policies,” he said. “Improper use can result in disciplinary action.”

Employees of Trustmark Bank also must sign a written agreement to abide by Trustmark’s Information Security Policy during orientation, and all associates sign a statement annually renewing their agreement to abide by the policy.

Gray Wiggers, senior vice president, public affairs, said, “The policy incorporates by reference additional standards such as end user computing, e-mail and Internet use, giving more detail as to how to comply with the policy.”

He said the policy specifically relates to banking in that it mostly deals with privacy issues and information security issues. To date, there have been no legal issues regarding the use of the bank’s technology.

“We have systems that scan e-mail before it goes out to make sure the content is appropriate and that it is encrypted in the event it contains confidential information,” he said. “Minor infractions such as non-business Web browsing are usually resolved by a manager reminding the associate of the policy infraction. If an infraction of policy occurs, the associate would be referred to our human resource department for appropriate counseling and/or reprimand.”

Although students, faculty and staff do not sign an acceptable use policy at Mississippi College (MC), by signing the application for admission or completing paperwork in the hiring process, each one agrees to abide by all the policies of the school.

“This includes the AUP,” said Barry K. Bounds, director of computer services at the Clinton school. “Each semester as a student begins the on-line registration process, they can’t continue without agreeing to abide by the AUP.”

The MC Web page has a link to student services and then computer services, Bounds added, and the acceptable use policy is on the left hand side of the page. “If you click on that link, it will take you to the AUP,” he said. “It is also printed in the Tomahawk (campus newspaper) and in a general new user information packet we give students when we give them their MCnet accounts.”

There are thousands of employees using technology at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula and company policy clearly states that it’s for business purposes. Jan Rightout, vice president and chief information officer, says the only exception is for employees who are going to school.

“Every year we go through what the policies are and make sure everyone understands them,” she said. “None revolve around electronic etiquette but we do have campaigns for that.”

Referring to e-mail, Rightout said managers remind employees to make careful use of the “reply to all” button. “It can be a problem and bog down the system,” she said. “We also have to remind people about what’s appropriate. Sometimes we have someone use an inappropriate site. These situations are dealt with by the human resource department. We block Internet sites and we do review them.”

Another concern is that employee e-mails could play a role in legal issues. “Those e-mails can be used against the company in any litigation that might come up,” Rightout said. “We have to remind employees of that.”

The Jackson-based Horne, LLP, has an acceptable use policy and all employees are required to sign it, according to information technology director Dave Bufkin.

“Employees are educated on our policies during initial orientation. They are given a copy of the policies for their review,” he said. “Security is our number one priority.”

Employees who adhere to the technology policies have less problems relating to the security of the firm’s information and data integrity.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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