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Staff asked not to abuse trust as taxman launches internet trial

The Australian Taxation Office says it trusts its workers not to abuse the trial of a wireless network that would allow them for the first time access to sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter during work time.

The trial group of 170 South Australian tax workers will have some of the widest employer-supplied internet access of any rank-and-file public servants in the nation in an initiative that could be rolled out to all the ATO's 24,000 employees across the nation.

But pornographic sites and those posing a danger of malware or spam will remain off-limits and management will keep an eye on big downloaders.

According to the Tax Office's official announcement, the workers would have ''an alternative, less restrictive mechanism to access the internet without compromising the security of ATO systems''.

The public service has had an uneasy relationship with the social media activities of its employees and several high-profile cases have highlighted the blurred lines between private and professional online lives.

Tax Office worker Darryl Adams was punished last year for using a satirical Twitter account to say an anti-pornography activist was ''rootable in that religious feminist way''.

Immigration Department official Michaela Banerji lost a court appeal in August, opening the way for her to be sacked by her department for ''highly critical'' material posted on Twitter.

Another bureaucrat, Foreign Affairs employee Darrell Morris, looks certain to be fired over allegations he was active in a Facebook group accused of threatening and defaming departmental bosses and politicians.

But the ATO's chief information officer, Bill Gibson, has told his workers that he recognised ''the increasing use of mobile devices in the workplace, the deeper integration of work and life in our everyday lives and the increasing need for staff to access social networking and other websites for work purposes''.

The trial group will be able to use their personal devices through the wireless network to access social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter that are normally off-limits to public servants.

''Because the service is separate to our ATO systems, fewer restrictions will be placed on its use,'' Mr Gibson wrote.

''For example, staff will be able to access sites that are normally blocked including social networking, video and news groups/forums.

''However, certain sites will still be blocked such as pornography and malware/spam sites.''

Mr Gibson said ''two-way trust'' would be the key to the trial's success.

''Security is everyone's responsibility and the commissioner [of taxation] trusts us to do the right thing,'' he told staff.

''Piloting this new service is reflective of two-way trust the commissioner wishes to engender.''

But staff dreaming of unlimited free downloads at work will be disappointed because the ATO will be monitoring data usage volumes.

3 comments

  • This is absolutely crazy.......... less productive.springs to mind!

    Commenter
    Deutsch
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    September 11, 2013, 12:31PM
    • Is nothing sacred in this country anymore.

      Commenter
      OLD DOG
      Date and time
      September 11, 2013, 3:46PM
      • We don't filter Facebook or internet at work hence me reading smh at my desk on a break and always having FB open in the background during the day.

        Commenter
        Cambo
        Date and time
        September 12, 2013, 12:58PM
        Comments are now closed
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