We've become accustomed to systems that let us spy on employees. Systems that spy on executives may change the formula.
For the longest time companies have been quite open about putting systems in place to keep track of how employees spend their time (and their use of corporate resources). Keystroke loggers, video cameras, deep-packet inspectors, and filters -- all these and more have been used to ensure that employees are doing everything they're supposed to do and nothing that's forbidden. With all of these systems, though, has come the (often unwritten) expectation that they cover only those below a certain rung on the organizational ladder. Once you got the corner office, the thinking went, you left the electronic shackles of constant monitoring behind. That thinking is now up for review.
The driving force behind this change in thinking is the combination of regulators and law-enforcement officials. In some cases they're becoming more aggressive about discovering when companies are breaking the rules through the conduct of their executives. In others, they're now looking at reaching through the corporate structure to charge individual executives when those rules and laws are broken.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Frederick Reynolds, deputy director of the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, has publicly stated that regulators are going to prosecute individuals who violate banking secrecy and other regulations in an attempt to discourage the sort of behavior that contributed to the financial collapse in the last decade. Keeping track of that activity will require more information on the day-to-day data use of executives. Generating that information will require more intrusion into the data streams of the people at the top of the organization chart.
In many ways, the blunt instrument of regulatory compliance could be an advantage for the IT department. It seems that everyone in IT has a supply of stories about how those at the top of the organization have exempted themselves from any number of rules ranging from BYOD to web site blocking. If it's just the CIO laying down the new rules then there can be room for all sorts of arguments. When the regulators are the ones calling the shots, then the arguments can be made by the legal department -- people who are rather accustomed to making persuasive arguments under pressure.
Of course it's possible that your organization is already monitoring the traffic of every employee, no matter how lofty their title. If that's the case then you're well ahead of the curve. If not, then you should start preparing your arguments now because more comprehensive monitoring is coming -- it's a question of when it hits your organization, not whether it will.
How big a fight do you think it will be to monitor the traffic of the CEO? Have you already fought the battle? I'm looking forward to your thoughts -- and I promise that the only monitoring eyes will be those that come from the E2 community!
Curtis Franklin, Jr. , Executive Editor, Enterprise Efficiency