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Ethical Issues a Network Administrator May Encounter

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Network administrators generally have access to every file and shred of information on a company or organization's network. Such wide access means that network administrators could face a variety of ethical issues in the course of their work. These could rise from the tasks they are asked to perform or simply as a result of viewing all the sensitive information in the course of their workday.

Invasion of Privacy

One of the tasks a company could assign a network administrator could be looking at at the browser activities and emails of employees to enforce company Internet usage policies. In this case, the network administrator could feel that it is unethical to invade employees' privacy in this way. However, if the company's employment contract states that the company could review their Internet activities, then the employees were forewarned not to do anything private on their company computers or company email accounts.

Equality in Reporting

Another ethical issue a network administrator could encounter in the process of reviewing employee browsing and email usage involves deciding what infractions to report. In other words, should the administrator report every single infraction, no matter how small, or should he only report serious infractions? In this case, the administrator may use his own values to determine what constitutes a "serious" infraction, and these values would also decide which employees will be let off and which ones could face disciplinary action.

Sensitive Information

A network administrator must know everything about his employer's technology infrastructure. This can include proprietary technologies and business practices. If a network administrator begins a new job at a different company, he could find himself in a situation where he could use knowledge from his previous employment for gain at his new job. In this case, the network administrator has to look for ethical, as well as legal, guidance to any non-disclosure agreements he may have signed at his old company.

Whistle Blower Situations

In this course of a network administrator's job with unlimited access to any file on the company's servers, she may come across information that implicates her company in activities that are either unethical or strictly illegal. In this case, the network administrator may find herself torn between reporting her employer and her own job security. The employee needs to balance whether the activity is strictly illegal or simply unethical, with the constraints of any non-disclosure agreements she may have signed before going forward to report her employer.


Micah McDunnigan has been writing on politics and technology since 2007. He has written technology pieces and political op-eds for a variety of student organizations and blogs. McDunnigan earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of California, Davis.

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