Rep. Anthony Weiner Scandal Sparks Discussion of Blurring of Work and Personal Communication

Lines between work and personal use of technology are fuzzier than ever.

June 7, 2011 — -- Rep. Anthony Weiner's apology about inappropriate communication with women on Monday has sparked discussion about the blurry line of using work resources for personal use.

In a survey, 42 percent of employees said they have used their work computer or smartphone to access social networking sites, according to the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA).

"The reality is everyone does it," Michelle Goodman, workplace columnist for ABC News, said. "People working in an office will do whatever they can to push boundaries."

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has called for a congressional investigation into whether Rep. Weiner broke House rules and engaged in inappropriate personal behavior on government computers or property.

View an exclusive slideshow of images obtained by ABC News.

Weiner allegedly sent photos of himself in his office and his home to Meagan Broussard, a single mother in Texas, using a personal blackberry. Weiner also confessed to risque online chats with at least five others.

John Pironti, president of IP Architects and an advisor to ISACA, said government employees usually understand that they are under more scrutiny and monitoring. He said public officials are especially encouraged to have two accounts, because public accounts can become public record under the Freedom of Information Act.

"It's highly encouraged they have a clear delineation between personal and public communication," he said.

While employees may feel pressure to be more productive with faster mobile communication, blurring the lines of work and life can pose problems not only to productivity but an office's reputation, as the Weiner situation might suggest.

Pironti said using work technology for personal reasons has become more commonplace and will only continue to grow.

In a survey, 15 percent of employees said they planned to shop online on a work-supplied computer during the last holiday season, according to ISACA. And Pironti said some employers may want to encourage employees to shop online during the busy holiday season, preventing them from having to spend time away from work shopping in stores.

But blurring work-life technology communication can also pose a problem to a company's security.

Pironti said the recent "Epsilon" security breach and other security attacks may have originated through an employee's email account.

In another ISACA survey, 37 percent of IT professionals said the risks outweigh the benefits of employees using personal mobile devices for work activities, while 36 percent said the risks and benefits are "appropriately balanced."

Of the 711 IT professionals surveyed, 58 percent said an employee-owned mobile device represented the greatest risk to their enterprises. That was well above the runner-up of work-supplied laptops/netbooks (13 percent).

Pironti said the best defense to inappropriate use of technology at the workplace is education and user awareness. He said employers should inform employees that they monitor use of work equipment and have the right to make sure employees are acting in accordance with workplace guidelines.

"We want to encourage employees to have good work-life balance," Pironti said. "We want them to take advantage of technology that will help them do work better, but there are privacy and security challenges by doing so."

Michelle Goodman cautioned that employees should avoid inappropriate online behavior in or out of the workplace, because online content usually comes back to haunt you.

"Don't be stupid. Don't be a wiener about it," she said.