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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
News beats porn online
Woman on laptop at work
A quarter of employees admit to surfing obsession
Employees are far more likely to be addicted to news than to pornography, a survey has found.

Websense, a San Diego-based firm which provides software to monitor web habits at work, has found that news sites are proving the real internet addiction for employees.

It has to be said, of course, that most companies block access to porn sites.

Just over 20% of those surveyed said that they thought news was the most addictive web content, compared to 18% for pornography and 8% for gambling sites.

Nearly 70% of people admitted surfing news sites for personal reasons.

What to block?

Other retail sites were also popular, with 37% admit to accessing shopping and auction sites from their desks.

Only 2% confess to looking at pornography at work.

Work surfing facts
25% of staff say they are addicted
67% admit to looking at news
24% think shopping is most addictive
Only 4% of employers block access to news sites
"Initially we saw the most abuse in pornography and gambling sites, now we are seeing more time spent on shopping and news sites," said Harold Kester, Chief Technology Officer at Websense.

Web obsession at work is still a real problem with a quarter of employees confessing to feeling addicted.

They are managing to keep the surfing surreptious, with less than 10% of companies saying there was any problem with levels of office use of the net.

The fact that people are looking at different sites may mean that employers need to rethink their policy on office surfing.

According to Websense nearly 80% of employers block access to pornography, compared to just 4% who do not allow staff to access news sites.

Whatever the content, it is all lost productivity for businesses though.

It is estimated that it will cost an organisation of 1,000 employees an average of 30m each year if all its workers surfed for non-work related content for just an hour a day.

Getting balance right

UK content filtering firm SurfControl is not surprised that porn no longer tops the list of work-based internet abuse.

"In an office environment it isn't always that easy to surf for porn," said a spokesman for the company.

"People are far more likely to be doing day-to-day stuff such as looking at news and sport, checking share prices and shopping," he said.

He believes employers have to strike a balance between allowing staff access to the net and making sure they are not using up too much valuable bandwidth or wasting too much time.

Homepage homage

Robin Bynoe, partner with London law firm Charles Russell, said employers will have to live with some degree of cyber abuse in the office.

Legally though they may be on a lot safer ground if employees are just looking at news sites.

"News is morally neutral in a way that pornography isn't," he said.

The real issue for employers worried about the legal implications of new technology is more likely to lie in the amount of pornographic spam in employees' inboxes, he said.

Favouritism towards the news might not go down too well with employers, as Mr Bynoe found out himself.

"I had BBC News as my homepage but was found out and now have the Charles Russell intranet," he said.

See also:

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