Why wasting time online at work could land you in jail

Why wasting time online at work could land you in jail

Prison - http://www.flickr.com/photos/lafaske/3254188826/Here’s a disturbing fact – you can be jailed for wasting your time online when you’re supposed to be working.

We’ve all done it – reading blogs, using Twitter or watching Youtube videos on company time. It’s lazy but is it a crime? In Ohio it is.

Security Focus recounts the tale of Richard Wolf, a water treatment plant worker who was caught looking at internet porn and chatting to sex workers online on company time. Beyond being fired he found himself in court for theft of his employer’s money (presumably for not working while being paid), for unauthorized use of property, soliciting sex for money… and hacking.

Yes, ‘Unauthorised Computer Use” can be far more than just breaking through computer security. Merely using a computer for anything you’re not supposed to can be deemed as ‘Unauthorised’. Even an innocent tweet could potentially be deemed as unauthorised (after all, only really lucky people get paid to use Twitter!).

It’s not just Ohio that has this policy – many courtrooms around the world will convict you for for using computers beyond the scope of a computer usage policy. What’s different in Ohio, as Security Focus explains, is:

What the Ohio Court of Appeals for Richland County, Ohio did on April 27, 2009, was to establish the precedent that, by using a corporate computer in furtherance of a violation of an unwritten policy constituted a computer crime. The Court noted that Wolf used his computer in a way that was “beyond the scope of the excess or implied consent” of the owner of the computer, and therefore a crime.

It is worth noting that the wastewater treatment plant had no computer use policy. The court simply found that it was apparently obvious that accessing pornographic Web sites, soliciting sex, or uploading nude pictures was not “authorized” and therefore was a computer crime.

In short – if you do anything online at work other than specifically what you’re supposed to as part of your job you can end up in jail – even if there’s no computer policy in place. A sobering thought for next time you browse the web when you’re supposed to be busy.

[Image credit: Biggunben, Flickr]

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