IT opts out of 'porn cop' role

Keen to avoid being portrayed as the "porn cops" of Australian enterprise, IT managers claim HR departments are shirking their responsibilities when it comes to enforcing e-mail and Internet misuse policies in the workplace.

Against a backdrop of a record number of dismissals for Internet misuse in Australia in the past three months, IT managers said they are willing to provide the technical solution to the problem but HR needs to take responsibility for ethical conduct standards.

There has been a string of high-profile dismissals this year for accessing and downloading "sexually explicit material" at some of Australia's largest organizations including Woolworths, Centrelink and the Department of Defence.

According to Charles Heunemann, managing director of content filtering software vendor SurfControl, there is a "fair bit of finger pointing going on between HR and IT because IT is being forced to be actively involved in the dismissal process.

"In some cases if HR wants to get rid of someone they go to IT and ask them to monitor the employee’s e-mail. The results can be used as an excuse to get rid of someone but IT doesn't want to be the porn cops," Heunemann said.

NSW Labor Council deputy assistant secretary Michael Gadiel agrees, adding that distinctions need to be made between the roles of HR and IT.

"In some cases, IT is affected, such as the sending of large files and transmitting viruses that compromise the system,” Gadiel said.

“HR should deal with complaints concerning harassment and offensive material because they are related more to human behaviour and workplace standards than to the technical nature of e-mail.”

In reality duties are shared between HR and IT, according to Toowoomba City Council IT manager Rodney Kuhn.

“IT should look at e-mail issues that affect the performance of the network, while HR should focus on ethical and conduct issues," Kuhn said.

In Adelaide, St Andrew’s hospital manager of information systems Greg Laing says he works closely with HR to resolve the problem when it is detected.

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