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. . . or watch and feel like a slimy interloper. Dig into your ethos and discover whether employee Internet monitoring is for you.

This story appears in the December 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

To snoop or not to snoop-for employers today, that is the question. Big names like Xerox, Dow Chemical and The New York Times are setting the precedent, axing workers for Net abuses ranging from inappropriate surfing to violations of e-mail policy. Meanwhile, tools for monitoring e-mail and Net use are now affordable and widely available, raising the bar on moral dilemmas. As easy as it may be to read every word in every e-mail and to know every Web site that employees visit, is it right?

"Historically, e-mail monitoring has been seen as Big Brother. But today people are starting to see there may be problems if you don't monitor," says Walter R. Boos, president of Content Technologies Inc. in Bellevue, Washington, whose MAILsweeper software provides a tool for reading all incoming and outgoing e-mail.

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