Facebook by proxy: smart or subversive?


Using_a_proxy A lot of companies have realized that the popularity of sites like Facebook is starting to impact productivity and are putting measures in place to prevent people from using them. You may be able to beat the system, but should you?

For those who have been unpleasantly surprised to find that their Facebook or eBay addiction has been cramped by a corporate firewall, I’ve got some good news. Free proxy services on the web offer a way to fool your firewall into letting you surf wherever you like. So problem solved – if your IT group puts up a roadblock, just bypass it.

At least that’s Chris Null’s take on the corporate filter situation.

Chris thinks that as long as your job doesn’t involve flipping burgers or some other kind of manual labour in which something has to happen every minute of every hour, you should go right ahead and circumvent your company’s restrictive IT policy if you can.

I’m tempted to agree with this assessment, as I’m one of the lucky ones who gets judged by my overall results and not how much I got done in a single day. I’m pretty sure that my boss isn’t going to call me into her office if she catches me on YouTube or perhaps doing some personal e-mail.

But many folks out there are working in environments where things are more rigid and where policies strictly prohibit certain kinds of behaviour, including surfing sites that aren’t directly related to business. Do their employers have the right to make these stipulations regarding "e-conduct"? In a word, yes.

As much as it probably frustrates those who feel they ought to be able to do as they wish on a company’s computer, so long as it isn’t illegal or unethical, the fact is you will probably face some sort of disciplinary action if you get caught doing it against established policy.

So there you have it: a set of e-rules that prevent you from wasting, er, spending time on non-work-related sites and a possible way to get around them.

And here’s the question: Should you be able to decide for yourself what sites you get to use while at work, even if your company has forbidden it?

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17 comments

  1. Arlene

    I think that if you are hired to do a job and the company pays you for X # of hours you should give the company those hours and be productive for the company. So if you have extra time and completed ALL your work, then go on line and find something that will enhance your ablitities for your employer. If you chose to spend time going to sites that are against company policy or even just playing games you are in a sense stealing from the company. Stealing the money that you are paid for the hours that you are non-productive.

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  2. Telecom Doctor

    Policy should be a guideline. There has to be some discretion since the working day today is much more expanded than the working day used to be.

    Employers expect more for less all the time. Tools like Blackberries extend the working day.

    So if you are paying a bill, taking a short break from tedious work, or expanding your horizons to make yourself a more complete person, then some of this needs to be tolerated.

    If you are paid for 7.5 – 8 hour day and put in routinely 10-11 hours – then even with a little "surfing" employers are getting far more from you than the liberties you might be taking.

    For the most part, a good employee is a good employee – period. Policy rules just give companies an excuse to weed out the baddies.

    Keep the boss happy and don't do stuff that will get the company in trouble.

    All is good!

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  3. Sheetal

    I think it completely depends on where you work and what kinda work you do. I mean every company has policies about almost everything , but there is also the fact that man can't be machines and can't work all the time. Being social beings, we want to interact with other people. Say if your not on net writing scraps, you always get out of your desk to atleast have a few "non-work " talks with colleagues. so as long as you work is don on time and ur not delaying some then i think it shouldn't pose any harm to the company.

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  4. Bradyn

    I agree with what was mentioned above. Companies are expecting more for less nowadays, and as long as the "non-work" activities are kept within reason, I really do not see a problem with it. If a meeting runs longer than expected, say past 12 noon, or past 4/5pm, we don't get up and walk out because we are now on "personal time" and I am not required to be here a moment longer. I would assume that we are all professionals, and mature discretion should be taken. Playing solitaire or games is ridiculous. Taking 5-10 minutes to pay a bill or make a personal phone call is not.

    It is true that our employers are paying us $X for X# of hours, but they do not pay us for X# of hours that we beckon to the calls of work during our personal time. Until that happens, I'll check my email whenever I feel like it.

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  5. JP

    Bandwidth is an expensive resource. If someone gets delayed downloading the corporate budget because you watch funny clips from YouTube, you're now affecting everyone ELSE's work.

    If you're a contractor, and you spend an hour on the web, and bill for a full day, you're committing FRAUD.

    Using your employer's infrastructure for fun or profit – FRAUD.

    In my office, using a proxy will get you terminated – almost on the spot!

    What does it take to get this into your heads?

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  6. Scott

    Obviously, the author of this tidbit of information has never worked in IT. YOU try being responsible for keeping viruses and spyware off of all your corporation's PCs. Or try explaining to the boss why he can't do this or that in a timely fashion because the network's bandwidth is being eaten up by video downloaded from YouTube. Most likely, those rules and restrictions are there for a good reason – it's not only about productivity and being busy all the time. I think that the author of the article has been very irresponsible in writing it. He obviously hasn't thought it all through (or just wants to "stick it to the man" so badly that he just doesn't care). Crippling a PC with viruses or tying up a network's bandwidth is one thing, but I work in a hospital system.

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  7. Jeremy

    I agree with Scott's comments. It's not so much about being productive for yourself, it's a network issue. I am an IT administrator so I have great latitude with my online abilities, but I have nearly crippled the entire network from downloading some massive work related files. Since I know what I am doing, I limited my download so that it would be finished by the next day, without holding everyone up. Considering we are running on T1 lines with about 200 people constantly connected, one faster then average download (130 KB/s or higher) can all but kill the whole network, and did for a few minutes in my case. Everyone has to realize, it's not always about you.

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  8. Carrie

    At my place of work, Facebook, Hotmail and YouTube are all blocked. My co-workers and I were a little mad when we found out. But that is not what we are paid for.

    If people are that hard pressed that they can not wait 8 hours to go onto Facebook until they get home, then they might need to look at themselves and see a problem, possibly.

    Most people have internet at home. You pay for it so use it.

    If the employer has specifically put firewalls in place to not allow access to these sites, are you seriously going to jeopardize your job just to update your status on one of these sites?

    The only time I think any of those sites should be used is on your lunch that is unpaid. Your time, their computers.

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  9. Wraith

    It seems the people most surprised and angry they are getting disciplined or terminated are the ones who felt that company policies and rules were "guidelines" or didn't apply to them because they are good workers. When you are hired, and periodicaly through your employment, your company will issue the policies to you, which you are generally required to sign. READ IT! Whether you like it or not, these are the rules of employment you agree to abide by, or face consequences. If yu don't think the policies are fair, get them changed. Talk to H.R. They may be able to open your eyes as to why these policies are in place, or help you get them changed so they better fit the work enviroment.

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  10. terry Gaudet

    Definitely not. You shouldn;t be able to go to any sites you want on the Internet while on a company computer…. for a whole slew of reasons.

    1. It's not your money you're spending. Companies have computers for work purposes, not for employee entertainement.
    2. Big security risk. A couple of years ago I saw a corporate IT system come down in minutes because of two people who figured they should be allowed to do what they wanted. Big $$$ lost that day.
    3. You're supposed to be working at work. I don;t know of any companies who willingly pay their employess to sit around and browse the Internet. since you are being paid, you should be responsible enough to actually work.

    I could go on but you get the idea. I really don't understand people who feel they should be allowed to do what they want on comapny time. Why would I bother paying you? And why should I let you browse the Interent at my expense?

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  11. PT

    Just wanted to make my little addition to the comments posted here. First of all I am at work, on my lunch. But I had to chuckle to myself as from what I see just about everyone who's posted here is also at work. So my question is to those who think that doing personal things on the internet is wrong. What have you all been doing? Have a look at the times these comments were posted. With a few exceptions most of the comments were posted during work hours. Just my 2 cents…

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  12. Excogitator

    Question – Do you want to be responsible for infecting your entire network with a virus because you by-passed your company firewall?

    Answer – As Donald Trump would say "Your FIRED"

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  13. Brad

    For the non-IT people: Like it or not, company policies are there for a reason. In some cases they are there to protect you, and they are there to protect others, too. You're an employee – a working stiff. Like it or not, you're working because you have bills to pay. When you were hired, you essentially signed a contract that trades your skills and knowledge for money. Yes, you've "leased" yourself to someone. There are certain expectations of you, and once you're working, you are expected to be productive. If you don't like it, you could always find a company that has less-restrictive policies.

    For the IT-types: Their jobs are never-ending, and their careers are one in which they are never truly "off the clock." Their pagers & cell-phones are going off even while they are on vacation, and they are expected to respond very quickly when it does go off. They are the ones that take the heat for everything – if a virus gets in, if SPAM increases, etc., the boss wants to know WHY it happened, how it happened, and why wasn't anything done about it before it occurred. To many, IT personnel are expected to be magicians. Guess what? If one of the people in the office does something to affect the corporate infrastructure, the IT guys are the ones burning the midnight oil to correct things so YOU can be productive during the 9-5 grind.

    Rules are rules, unless you happen to have permission from the boss to be doing what you please. Some companies have a "relaxed" policy if you work after-hours. However, still be mindful of what you do – again, if you inadvertantly do something, you'll no doubt have a team of IT people very upset as they are they ones who have to spend countless hours AFTER work to correct the problem. They have families too.

    To "PT": Who's to say the others who posted their comments weren't working their lunch as well? Some people take their lunch when they can, and not everyone is lucky enough to have a lunch from 12:00-1:00. I operate my own business, and work in the IT world. Lunch for me is different each day – all depends on the workload. Even if I were employed by a company, I know my lunch would vary daily working in an IT department. It is one of those things that comes with the territory.

    In short, wait until you go home to "mess around." Besides, some companies ARE watching internet activity – do you really want people within your company knowing your personal business?

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  14. PT

    Brad, what I was pointing to is the fact that the line between what is "personal" and what is "Work related" has become so grey that most people don't even think about posting to a blog like this. I take my lunch on the go as well but if you actually look at the post times most of them are before 9:30am. I make no reference to who's posting and when, simply the fact that a lot of people have posted during what I would call "Normal working hours" Apparently this point escaped you. I agree that people should not use company time for personal reasons. But if you look at the other side it's equally valid. IE: If I pay my bills while having lunch at my desk at work, I'm still available to make and take calls etc. Then when I go home I have that much more time to spend with my family. Which in case you don't know is what we work for. To provide a good income to support our households. Personally I think companies should provide more resources to enable people (within reason) to use the company's resources for personal errands on personal time. I know that my company gets more from me as a result. I'm entitled to an hour lunch yet technically I'm working through it because I'm at my desk most days working as I'm doing my banking (and answering this blog). I'm no research expert but I think you'll find that companies that foster a relaxed policy towards personal use of company resources on personal time actually get more out of their employees overall.
    Well time's up, back to work I go…

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  15. Dcrypt

    Never used face book never will no offence but never understood the point of it the fad will ware off sooner or later and there will be the next big thing I mean placing personal information into the internet just makes identity theif's and hackers lives so much easier and having a job as a computer programer myself i could just as easy take over your life just as easy as the next guy I work with lucky for all you guys who really like to out out information I'm on your side.
    From a guy who would never use face book Cheers D:crypt

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