Pornography threatens your business

More than a decade of research demonstrates that employees continue to access pornography from their work computers in significant—and possibly increasing—numbers. The ramifications of porn use in the office extend throughout an organization, causing low productivity, loss of business resources, low morale, the threat of sexual harassment suits and costly employee turnover.

Pornography could already be in your office

A 2006 Websense survey found that 16 percent of men and eight percent of women with Internet access at work self-reported that they had seen online pornography while on the job; six percent of men and five percent of women admitted to intentionally looking for it.1

By February 2010, the number of people using a work computer to visit sexually oriented website was as high as 28 percent, according to research conducted by The Nielsen Company. The average visit from a work computer was about 13 minutes, and the average worker spent one hour and 38 minutes on such sites during that month.2

According to the 2005 FBI Computer Crime Survey, 22 percent of surveyed companies reported problems with pornography on their networks.3
In 2007, a study of 10,000 computers on 125 public and private sector networks found pornography on 25 percent of the machines and in 12 percent of email accounts. That same study found that 35 percent of all images were sent internally. 4

Pornography viewing wastes staff time and valuable company resources

In 2005, Websense reported that 50 percent of surveyed workers used the Internet for personal purposes at work, costing U.S. companies $178 billion annually, or $5,000 per employee. 5

IT managers estimate that an average employee is using the Internet for personal use for 5.9 hours a week or 25.7 hours per month.6

If the average employee surfs for pornography for one hour and 38 minutes each month,7 it would cost U.S. companies more than $11 billion annually in lost productivity alone.

Viewing pornographic images or videos consumes greater amounts of company bandwidth than legitimate work-related activities.

Pornography use threatens your data and IT security

Research shows that poor security on pornography sites makes them an ideal place for Internet crime. A 2009 Websense study found that 69 percent of all sites with sex, gambling or drug-related content contained at least one malicious link, and 50 percent of Web pages categorized as “Sex” included malicious content.8

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents to the 2009 CSI Computer Crime and Security Survey had experienced malware infection within the past year.9

Pornography incidents lead to costly employee turnover

Half of Fortune 500 companies have had at least one incident related to computer porn in the workplace over the past 12 months. Offenders were fired in 44 percent of the cases.10

Sensei Enterprises, a computer forensics company, also found that 26 percent of companies surveyed in the first half of 2009 had fired employees for violating email or Internet policies.11

The American Management Association reports that 30 percent of bosses have fired workers for Internet misuse. Eighty-four percent of those incidents involved viewing, downloading or uploading inappropriate or offensive content.12

Human resources experts estimate the average cost of staff turnover at one-and-a-half times an employee’s annual wage, but the American Management Association concludes that costs to replace highly skilled or executive-level staff can ratchet up to 250 percent of annual salary.13

Pornography on the job creates a hostile working environment

One survey found that 40 percent of people have seen co-workers surfing porn sites.14

Sixty-eight percent of those were bothered by the pornography surfing, and nearly half were bothered enough to confront the offender or report it to management or human resources.15

Pornography at work can lead to expensive sexual harassment lawsuits

A 2004 survey of 15,000 people by Elle magazine and MSNBC found that 15 percent of men and 8 percent of women had ever emailed sexual images to co-workers.16

The American Management Association reports that 13 percent of companies have faced a lawsuit based on employee email.17

Nearly 12,000 sexual harassment claims were filed with the government in 2010. 18

Some estimates place the average cost of defending a sexual harassment case at $150,000 and the average court verdict for a harassment plaintiff at $350,000.19

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1 Stephanie Armour, “Technology makes porn easier to access at work,” USA TODAY, October 17, 2007
2 Ki Mae Heussner, Matthew Jaffe, “How Big Is the SEC’s Porn Problem?,” ABC News, March 25, 2010.
3 2005 FBI Computer Crime Survey, 2005, http://www.digitalriver.com/v2.0-img/operations/naievigi/site/media/pdf/FBIccs2005.pdf(February 4, 2011).
4 “Porn found on 25 per cent of corporate PCs,” Economic Times, April 18, 2007, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international-business/Porn-found-on-25-per-cent-of-corporate-PCs/articleshow/1921446.cms (February 4, 2011).
5 Peter Saalfield, “Internet misuse costs businesses $178 billion annually,” IDG News Service, July 19, 2005, http://www.infoworld.com/t/applications/internet-misuse-costs-businesses-178-billion-annually-996 (February 4, 2011).
6 Peter Saalfield, “Internet misuse costs businesses $178 billion annually,” IDG News Service, July 19, 2005.
7 Ki Mae Heussner, Matthew Jaffe, “How Big Is the SEC’s Porn Problem?,” ABC News, March 25, 2010.
8 Ki Mae Heussner, Matthew Jaffe, “How Big Is the SEC’s Porn Problem?,” ABC News, March 25, 2010.
9 “14th Annual CSI Computer Crime and Security Survey,” CSI, December 2009, http://pathmaker-group.com/whitepapers/CSISurvey2009.pdf (February 4, 2011).
10 China Martens, “Survey: Half of All U.S. Firms Dealt With Computer Porn Last Year,” IDG News Service, June 21, 2005, http://pcworld.about.com/news/Jun212005id121526.htm (February 4, 2011).
11 “Porn pervasive in workplace,” TGDaily, August, 4, 2009, http://www.tgdaily.com/software-features/43493-porn-pervasive-in-workplace (February 4, 2011).
12 “The Latest on Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance,” amanet.org, March 13, 2008, http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/The-Latest-on-Workplace-Monitoring-and-Surveillance.aspx (February 4, 2011).
13 Scott Allen, “The High Cost of Employee Turnover,” openforum.com, April 7, 2010, http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/the-high-cost-of-employee-turnover-scott-allen (February 4, 2011).
14 “Cerberian and SonicWALL Web Usage Survey Results Released; 75% Accidentally See Porn at Work,”Business Wire, July 14, 2004, http://www.allbusiness.com/technology/software-services-applications-internet-filters/5667579-1.html (February 4, 2011).
15 “Cerberian and SonicWALL Web Usage Survey Results Released,” Business Wire, July 14, 2004.
16 Stephanie Armour, “Technology makes porn easier to access at work,” USA TODAY, October 17, 2007.
17 “Workplace E-Mail and Instant Messaging 2004 Survey,” amanet.org, July 13, 2003, http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/2004-Workplace-e-Mail-and-Instant-Messaging-Survey-18.aspx (February 4, 2011).
18 “Sexual Harassment Charges EEOC & FEPAs Combined: FY 1997 – FY 2010,” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/sexual_harassment.cfm (February 4, 2011).
19 “One Sexual Harassment Law Suit Can Devastate Even the Largest Employer,” FindLaw, May 1, 2001, http://library.findlaw.com/2000/May/1/131011.html (February 4, 2011).

Copyright © 2013, Daniel Weiss. All rights reserved. Used with permission.