RE: Block me Amadeus

Subject: RE: Block me Amadeus
From: SIANNON -at- VISUS -dot- JNJ -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 15:22:32

The constraint of word selection in electronic communications can raise
some definite discussion along that broad, fuzzy gray line, well within the
purview of technical communications. While I can understand the reasoning
behind the use of such filters -- concerns over legal, image, antivirus
issues, etc., I personally don't like them. Their implementation is
definitely something that shouldn't be ignored, as they can eventually
conflict with one's work and workstyle.

Filters seem to be applied for three major reasons: (1) to enforce
professional etiquette in order to prevent legal disputes regarding
employee behavior, (2) to enforce professional etiquette in order to
prevent abuse of company resources by employees, and (3) to serve as an
additional line of defense against some common email viruses. All three
have their own issues for argument: efficacy, scope, privacy (the balance
between Big Brother-ing employees and letting them rob a company blind),
enforcement of corporate culture.

As for efficacy: I personally think filtering strategies are not effective
enough to be worth the use, due to the nature and ambiguity of the

Scope is the one that gets amusing. I remember working in a health
insurance company trying to implement such filters for the first time. I
believe they went with a standardized list at first, because words like
"breast" and "penis" that appeared in reference to medical claims started
bouncing, much to the case workers' surprise. There was one small hiccup,
too (fixed very quickly), where words like "assumption" triggered alarms
because of the first three letters.

I'm afraid I was a wise-aleck on the privacy topic there. Before they
implemented external web access for the standard employees, I used to email
work-relevant stuff I found surfing the web from home at night, to my work
address for followup the next morning. I suspected some items (with
non-profanity verbiage) were being scanned by human eyes, so I emailed
myself a well-written, thorough, professional article about keystroke
monitoring software, and the legal and ethical issues and implications
thereof. When it finally showed up in my mailbox late the next
*afternoon*, it had been forwarded through Internal Audit, rather overtly.
I was amused.

As per the enforcement of a corporate culture, I have no suitable opinion
to express. I find it silly to be prohibited from emailing a family member
(who you know to be online, using the only phone line in the house) that
you need a ride home or are working late, when a phone call would be
allowed. I find it sillier to prohibit the phone call as well. If 1/3 of
our daily hours is going to be spent at a place, there *will* be some
fuzzing of the edges between our existence at that place and the other
2/3's of our daily lives. People working under overrestrictive environments
are more stressed and less happy working there, which can cut efficiency

Granted, this is all just opinion based on my observations.

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