ATO ramps up cyber-snooping on workers
Union alleges ATO bosses have stepped up cyber-snooping on their employees, monitoring use of Facebook during work hours.
Australian Taxation Office bosses have stepped up cyber-snooping on their employees, unions allege, after management went to some lengths to bust a worker using Facebook and real estate sites while on the job.
Managers used screen shot software introduced by the ATO as an aid to training to catch a customer service worker caught browsing the web for properties for sale.
She was then officially warned about her social media use when bosses used the timing of her Facebook updates to prove she was posting during work time, although the disciplinary action was later withdrawn when the worker was able to prove she was posting during officially sanctioned breaks.
But the ATO says it allows its 24,000 workers "reasonable" access to the web while on the job but a "disproportionate" amount of net browsing can cause problems in the workplace.
The worker was also warned about identifying herself as an ATO employee on her Facebook page which featured language "that would not be used in polite company," creating a potential "reputational risk" to the tax office and a potential breach of the public service Code of Conduct.
Clashes between bosses and public sector workers over their conduct on social media are becoming more commonplace with public servants in DFAT and Immigration recently sacked or facing dismissal over proven or alleged Twitter and Facebook activity.
The Australian Service Union warned its members working in the ATO to be careful on Facebook.
"If you use Facebook, do be careful," union official Jeff Lapidos warned.
"The ATO is watching how you use social media through its network of staff who are prepared to inform on their colleagues.
"It seems the ATO's position is that your Facebook pages need to meet the standards of courtesy and respect observed by ATO News Extra if you identify yourself as an ATO employee."
Mr Lapidos also said that his union was unhappy about the use of the Verint screenshot software being put to disciplinary use by catching the customer service official browsing the real estate site.
"Please be extra careful in areas where Verint is used," Mr Lapidos advised.
"The ATO is prepared to use the information it gathers through Verint against you."
An ATO spokeswoman said its policies on web browsing at work were reasonable.
"Limited personal use of ATO internet access is and always has been acceptable," she said.
"We understand people do need to use the internet for personal tasks at work.
"We're trialling a new wireless internet service for staff which will allow them to use their devices for work and personal purposes.
"Excessive personal usage, such as spending a disproportionate amount of time browsing the internet, can cause problems.
"We have an IT policy on occasional personal use that makes it clear to our employees the standards we expect of them."