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In an interview, how can I ask the question (without significant negative effects on how the interviewer views me)

"Do you restrict and monitor internet access of your employees, and if so, in which ways?"

The idea behind that is that the answer will give a clear idea about the level of trust that is given to me. After all, just asking "Do you trust your employees" can lead to very empty and unfounded answer, while this isn't something that could be lied about.

On the other hand, I clearly see a possibility of this looking like I'm planning slack-time already. I obviously want to avoid this.

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    Not enough for an answer but I'd go with "Do you have a computer and network usage policy?" If they have a problem with the question as phrased I probably wouldn't want to work there. – jcm Jul 22 '14 at 13:16
  • I might ask if you can "stream" music at work. That seems very non-confrontational and may lead the conversation toward what is appropriate and what is not. – Ronnie W Mar 8 '15 at 22:26
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In an interview, how can I ask the question (without significant negative effects on how the interviewer views me)

"Do you restrict and monitor internet access of your employees, and if so, in which ways?"

It's certainly reasonable to ask "Tell me about this company's Acceptable Use policy?" That is basically a non-confrontational way to get much of the information you are seeking. At least for me as a hiring manager, there would be no negative effects. I can't speak for all other hiring managers, but in my network of friends, none of them would hold that against you either.

That starts the conversation, and you can judge for yourself where you want to take it. You might want to probe deeper and ask specific questions about restrictions, monitoring, etc. Or you might sense that this line of questions isn't well received, in which case you can graciously back off.

As @bethlakshmi correctly points out, not every manager will have a lot of details on hand about how employee internet use monitoring is done. In my experience, there is usually a written policy. That may not have lots of details, but often gives you the broad warnings about what the company expects, and what they may choose to do.

If challenged and if you are feeling nervous, you can always follow up with something along the lines of "I like to do some work from home after hours. I'm basically wondering if I can use my own computer to access the corporate network, or if I'll be required to use a company-provided computer?"

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    Love it. Also keep in mind that not every manager will have a lot of details on hand about how employee internet use monitoring is done - it's not generally public knowledge that is disclosed in a management 101 handbook, and some protections rely on the fact that very few people know about specifics. So.. keep in mind that any info about employee monitoring is only as good as the source. – bethlakshmi Jul 22 '14 at 21:14
  • Almost forgot to accept an answer - thanks! I liked that you focused on the "Getting information on trust"-part. I might not have worded my question clear enough, that was mostly what I'd been interested in. – Kjeld Schmidt Jul 24 '14 at 13:03
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"Do you restrict and monitor internet access of your employees, and if so, in which ways?"

Don't ask this. You are going to give a very bad and wrong impression. Most people will, for better or worse, read this question as, "I want to do stuff at work I don't want my employer to know about."

Ask something like:

What sorts of ways does the company show it trusts its employees to do their work effectively?

This gets at more fundamental questions. It also forces an answer other than yes/no.

If you really want to know the internet question, frame it like one of the following:

  • Does X allow employees to use their computer at home for personal use? My current employer does. Do you have a technology use policy I could look at?
  • What sorts of technology does X give its employees? Laptops? How does X protect its systems - I assume you have some monitoring programs to ensure people don't install viruses, etc?

Both these will get directly at your question but in a far better manner.

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It's a mildly risky question to ask. You could say something like,

1) "At previous jobs, the focus was on getting the job done so if we took a little bit of down time to browse the internet, we were just expected to make it up at the end of the day. Do you have a similar policy here?"

2) "Is it alright if I surf the internet on my work computer on my lunch break or do you have a policy against that?"

Just be sure to pair it with (1) it's when I'm not working or (2) it's downtime I'll make up ASAP.

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    It's probably safer to just ask if they have a network use policy, and if so what is it. (or ask to see the employee manual which would have this information) There are thousands of legitimate reasons a person would need to access a website that isn't specifically work related at the office. You have family that travels and you pick them up sometimes, you like to check when you're heading out to see if a shipment has arrived at a local retailer, etc. The thing is to ask for the written policy not if doing X is okay. – RualStorge Jul 22 '14 at 14:30
  • There were some cases I studied where in the US an employee contract said that the company wouldn't snoop/monitor, the company did snoop/monitor and terminated the employee based on what they found. The employee sued and lost because the way the law was written the fact that the company agreed not to snoop wasn't something it could waive. Because of things like this and just the stigma that will carry into performance evaluations it's at least as important to figure out how people like your boss and coworkers feel about it as it is to find out what the official written policy is. – RetiredAssistant Jul 22 '14 at 15:03
  • interesting, of coarse in many of the states pretty much anything related to termination is a moot point since "right to work" allows for dismissal without reason. Typically the only exceptions I see stick is when someone gets injured on the job then fired, or if their is an email chain where the boss says flat out he's firing the person because of their race, gender, age, religion, or other protected reason. (People are fired for protected reasons pretty regularly here in FL, but there's typically only a few cases that there is enough evidence to act on) – RualStorge Jul 22 '14 at 15:23
  • Note: by regularly I mean it happens, not that it's the common – RualStorge Jul 22 '14 at 15:24
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Since employers usually want to provide, with or without the prodding of state laws, a safe and non-hostile working environment, providing controlled access to the Internet is part and parcel of their tool kit.

It is not about trust or the lack of it,it is about providing a safe and non-hostile working environment. And of course, there are securities issues involved, as when a user points their browser to a site that turns out to be an attack web website. If you point your browser to an an attack link and the result is that you downloaded a bunch of zero-day malware into your machine, the malware infects the files and folders that you uploaded into our shared filed and directories on our network, you will have probably made yourself a few more enemies than you can kill, and who are a lot more powerful in the organization than you are.

Your conflating into an issue of trust our desire/requirement to provide a safe and non-hostile working environment and to manage serious security issues relating to your access to our network and to the Internet - that conflation reveals a profound ignorance of the working environment that we want to maintain, and the fact that you would want to ask that question reflects poorly on your judgement as a prospective employee. The fact that the conflation is adversarial in tone does not help.

You are most likely opening the door to a world of troubles for yourself by asking that question. If you were asking that question, I would ask you why you are asking that question, And your interview with me goes downhill from there. Especially since I am an Information security specialist and part of my job is to clean up after someone else' security messes.

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    Well I have "never" seen any documented court cases where the monitoring or not of the internet effected a workplace legal issue - I think your not treating the sales pitch for monitoring with the scepticism that it deserves – Pepone Jul 22 '14 at 14:10
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    @Pepone If someone walks by my screen and sees an explicit picture on my screen, I don't think I will be holding my ob for very long, unless I have a very good explanation :) As an Infosec specialist, I am acutely aware of the limitations of security technologies and products - the continuing ingenuity, malice and ability to innovate of the bad guys provide my job security :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 22 '14 at 14:19
  • That is not the point at Q here your case is violating the companies use policies Where are all the court case's or IT decisions that provide the "legal" precedent for these monitoring systems being justified. Id want to see some actual court cases that increase the penalties because the employer don't not have a monitoring system – Pepone Jul 22 '14 at 15:00
  • @Pepone - Just look at cases dealing with hostile work environments. I bet at least some of those cases could have been prevented with proper IT policies to filter that sort of thing. – Ramhound Jul 23 '14 at 11:50
  • @Ramhound but has there been a case where there is evidence to that end? If I am going to expend company time and money I want a ROI. Btw I have been on the end of sexual harassment so I am not taking this lightly I want real solutions not pious rubbish from HR or Legal justifying their existence – Pepone Jul 23 '14 at 13:33

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