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U.S. Government Crippled by Sex, Gaming Sites 283

BobB writes "The U.S. Department of the Interior's inspector general has released a report that says department employees are wasting their taxpayer-funded work time going to prohibited web sites. Some of these sites relate to sex, computer games, gambling and auctions. The study found that almost $2 billion a year in productivity was being lost to these 'excessive indulgences.'" From the article: "Computer-use logs revealed more than 4,732 entries relating to sexually explicit Web sites and gambling sites. Some computers accessed sex sites for 30 to 60 minutes during the test period. More than 1 million log entries were discovered indicating 7,763 Department computer users spent 2,004-plus hours accessing game and auction sites. Extrapolated over the year, that could account for 100,000 lost work hours. Put another way, this would equal 50 full-time employees doing nothing but surfing online game and auction sites."
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U.S. Government Crippled by Sex, Gaming Sites

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  • by frosty_tsm ( 933163 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:51PM (#16327599)
    It's great and all that we hear there are 50 full-time employees worth of waste, but out of how many employees total? I'll bet you can find as much waste in even some large, successful companies.
  • by hurfy ( 735314 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:51PM (#16327601)
    Too much time on sex and gambling instead of reading slashdot

    err...wait a sec
  • Perspective (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:52PM (#16327603) Homepage
    "The study found that almost $2 Billion a year in productivity was being lost to these 'excessive indulgences'"

    How fast does $2 Billion get used in Iraq? I'm all for efficiency, but lets have it across the board.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:55PM (#16327661) Homepage
    For example, what did they consider "working hours". There is a HUGE difference between doing things during 9am-12pm and from 1PM-5PM as opposed to things being done during 12-1PM or from 5PM-10PM.

    I know LOTS of people that use their lunch hour to surf the net or stay late and play video games after 5PM. I don't consider that unethical.

    Similarly, I don't think it is wrong to spend 15 minutes checking out an ebay auction or reading your personal email, while some addict goes outside and smokes a ciggarette/takes a coffee break.

    Without more information, this looks like a rabble rousing report instead of something usefull.

  • by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:55PM (#16327663) Journal
    I've never understood that. Even accepting that he's going to goof off on his computer, and that he wants to goof off that way, what would compel him to do it there? Can he really not wait till he gets home for that kind of thing? And to answer the obvious objection -- yes, employees typically goof off, but not at sites that could get them prosecuted. Can't he distract himself at /. or something until quittin' time?
  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dare nMc ( 468959 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @04:56PM (#16327685)
    2000 hours /week spread over 7800 employees.
    so 30 minutes a week???? sounds like someone is wasting time, the ones who composed this report.
  • i'm certain that before the www there was just as much time wasting going on on just as many useless pursuits (cards, crossword puzzles, etc). if you have a job to do, and it doesn't get done, someone notices. but if you have downtime, which frequently happens in any large bureacracy, you waste your time with pointless pursuits. true in 1806, true in 2006

    it's just that logfiles make it easy to actually quantify this lost productivity for the first time. but in fact, one could make the case that the internet allows users to waste their time more... um... efficiently (snicker)
  • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:00PM (#16327761) Homepage Journal
    The study found that almost $2 Billion a year in productivity was being lost to these 'excessive indulgences'.... Put another way, this would equal 50 full-time employees doing nothing but surfing online game and auction sites.

    I didn't RTFA, but this would imply that those 50 full time employees have a bill + production rate of $40,000,000/year. Or roughly $20,000 dollars an hour. Unless the 50 employees they are talking about are lobbyist, I just don't see this as accurate.

  • by OldGuySythe ( 745787 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:00PM (#16327765)
    These studies all operate on the "presumption" that if they didn't "surf the web", they would be more productive. If they didn't have the Web, they would find some other way to occupy their time, and it most probably would not be work related.
  • Productivity? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:00PM (#16327775)
    > "The study found that almost $2 Billion a year in productivity was being lost to these 'excessive indulgences'"
    > How fast does $2 Billion get used in Iraq? I'm all for efficiency, but lets have it across the board.

    A better question: What economic output are these DOI employees (and for that matter, our mercenaries working for private contractors at 5-10 times the expense of an enlisted serviceman/woman) supposed to be creating that's worth $2B per year? In order to speak meaningfully of productivity, one first must be in the business of producing stuff.

    This is government work. Nothing's being produced, only consumed.

  • Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:02PM (#16327817)
    Total all the "hours" spent surfing junk sites ... for 100,000 employees ... and even at 6 minutes a day you'd have 600,000 minutes = 10,000 hours = 416 hours = 52 employees working 8 hour shifts.

    Now, for 50,000 employees, they'd have to spend 12 minutes out of an 8 hour day to get those numbers.

    25,000 employees would require 24 minutes out of an 8 hour day.

    And so forth. These "statistics" are meaningless without knowing how many TOTAL employees there are and what the mean and median are. Are there 10,000 employees and 5 of them spend 10 hours a day surfing junk while everyone thinks they're working? And the rest of the "hours" are people surfing junk sites during lunch?
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:12PM (#16327961) Homepage Journal
    You have to wonder if some are park rangers, kind of lonely (sex sites), who like to play poker over the net since the next human is 500 miles away.

    Ah, bet you forgot that they're part of the Department of the Interior, didn't you?
  • Rational analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) * on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:13PM (#16327979) Homepage Journal
    This truly sucks for the US government that a few employees, taking short breaks, can cripple the government. The threat is obviously not from outside terrorists, but from the employees going to ebay during their lunch breaks. If our government is so fragile, we should indeed be afraid.

    Lets look at the numbers. Over a week they counted about 7,000 employees going to illicit sites. This represents about than 1% of the 70,000 employees of the DOI. Furthermore they found that these employees spent 2000 hours on these illicit sites, or perhaps 15 minutes a day during the test week.

    From these stated fact, they found three interesting things. First, the wasted time represented 50 employees, or less than 0.1% of the workforce. Second they found that the internet use represented about 24 hours of internet use, presumable bandwidth. They then took this 24 hour number and, presumable, combined it with the total budget of the DOI, 10.4 billion, realized that 24 hours was one fifth of a week, and came up with 2 billion dollars in loss.

    So here is what we have. 1% of the employees, wasting 0.1% of the potential productive time of the DOI, uses 20% of the budget. This result does not indicate a problem with the employees, but a fundamental issue with the process of budgeting and managing money. Any structure that exposes 20% of the budget to risk due to the actions of 1% of the employees is surely inadequate.

    Now, the article did state that 'some' computers were accessing sites that would normally be considered uncool for work, and certainly those few people at those 'some' computer can be handled by management, unless those people are themselves high ranking officials that cannot be easily reprimanded. One wonders why those 'some' computers are even allowed to go to those sites.

    In the end it shows the lack of logical skills possessed by the average reporter, and, i fear, by posting it on /., the lack of logic skills of the average geek..

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:15PM (#16328005)
    Actually, it's even less time than that (unless an hour suddenly became 100 minutes). 2000 hours divided among 7800 employees yields ~.25 hours per employee per week. So, each employee averages about 15 minutes slacking per week, or 3 minutes per day. They must slack in other ways because that's incredibly low.
  • by Chmcginn ( 201645 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:30PM (#16328225) Journal
    It's extremely easy, I have no idea why the US Government doesn't do it.

    The problem is, the "US Government" is dozens of departments, with hundreds of different divisions inside of some of those departments... and that's not counting the military.

    A lot of parts of the federal government do exactly what you describe... but it's not a consistent thing throughout, nor should it be, really.

    For instance, in one of the (U.S. Navy) office buildings I've done work in, where they have normal (for the military) 0700-1600 work hours, they have firewalls with site blockers, and the like. But go to another base a few miles away, and you'll be able to surf pretty much whatever you want. It's still against policy to look at porn or gamble, but there's nothing actually stopping you from doing so. And that's within the same organization...

    But to address another issue... what exactly are these people doing? If these are workers in an office, and they're spending an hour a day, during the normal workday, looking at Ebay, they should be reprimanded. But if this is a park ranger, or an emergency worker, just sitting by his desk, with nothing to do until a call comes in... then what productivity are you really affecting?

  • by Chosen Reject ( 842143 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:34PM (#16328291)
    I don't know you personally so I can't say I hate you, but if I ever figure out who you set these policies up with, I would never work for them. I can understand blocking things like porn sites if for no other reason than to save yourself from sexual harrasment suits and maybe the gambling sites to avoid embezzlement temptations. But why in the world would you block non-official email, financial sites and sports sites?

    It's not wrong to expect your employees to work. So you set up a policy that says they have certain duties to perform and if they don't perform those duties then they are liable to be fired for failure to do their job. Then if they do their job, what are you worried that they happened to spend a few minutes seeing how their buddy is, seeing how their stocks are, and seeing how their team did? They did their duty. And if they don't do their duty, it doesn't matter one iota if they didn't because they wasted time one the web, at the water cooler, or because they are incompetent.

    I hate it when people have the "One bad apple ruins it for the whole class" mentality. Punish/discipline the people who do wrong, reward those who go above and beyond, and let everyone else do their thing.
  • by wwillia99 ( 984401 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:37PM (#16328345)
    It has been my experience that people goof off most at work when they have nothing else to do.

    So what they need to do is find more work for them or fire 50-100 of there full time employees for surfing the net to much and and not replace them, problem solved.
  • Re:Productivity? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by tyme ( 6621 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:42PM (#16328417) Homepage Journal
    Tackhead [] wrote:
    This is government work. Nothing's being produced, only consumed.

    Not all government work is non-productive. Most government agencies have some hand in assisting citizens and businesses in their productive endeavors, either by providing regulatory and legal infrastructure (the Dept. of Agriculture [] and the FDA [] inspect for food safety, the NIST [] provides consistant weights and measures for use in all sorts of commercial transactions, the judiciary provides the means of enforcing contracts, etc.) or by producing actual goods and services (the Library of Congress [] publishes books on tape and in braile [] for the deaf and the blind, the Army Corps of Engineers [] builds all sorts of public works and many agencies perform a fair amount of basic research that, eventually, winds up in the public sector via technology transfer []).

    I know that the Libertarian party-line, so popular on slashdot and with technologists in general, is that government is nothing but a leech on the ass of an otherwise productive capitalist society and should be restricted to funding a militia, but the facts simply don't bear this out. Any large organization will have an alarming amount of bureaucratic waste, and most governments may have a little more than most private sector entities, but governemnts can, and in some cases do, do more than generate paper and hot air.
  • by megaditto ( 982598 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:48PM (#16328491)
    Let me guess, you are no longer in IT because you illegally spied on people instead of doing your fucking job?

    You know, small things like deploying antiviruses, re-imaging the hard-disks, firewalling known threats, whatever the hell the good amins are supposed to do?

    Self-righteous assholes like you give the rest of the I.T. folks an (undeserved) bad rep.
  • Re:Hmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sYn pHrEAk ( 526867 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:50PM (#16328513) Homepage Journal
    Not to mention that if the equivalent of 50 employees doing nothing for a year is worth $2 billion, those 50 employees are worth an average $40 million a year.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05, 2006 @05:52PM (#16328541)

    Can he really not wait till he gets home for that kind of thing?

    If it's illegal then he's hardly any safer at home than at work (either way, he risks going to jail).

    If it's not illegal then it depends on his boss and his wife. If both of them object to what he's doing then he'd probably rather risk his job than his marriage (particularly if there are kids involved in the marriage).

    Whether his boss or his wife should object in the first place is another question entirely.

  • Re:Productivity? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DM9290 ( 797337 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @06:36PM (#16329109) Journal
    "In order to speak meaningfully of productivity, one first must be in the business of producing stuff.
    This is government work. Nothing's being produced, only consumed."

    this statement shows a lack of understanding of economics. A person may have no other job than to facilitate the division of labour. Someone who answers phones produces nothing, but may in fact be far more valuable to productivity than any other single laberour in the production line.

    If no person was specifically assigned to answer the phone, then a production line of 100 workers would need to shut down completely each time the phone rings.

    So if the production line (employing 100 labourers) needed to stop for 3 hours each day due to the necessity of answering phone calls then hiring a single person to answer the phone in effect gains you an entire 300 hours of productivity. and a single secretary to answer phones may in fact this way create 300 hours of PRODUCTION. Not only this but s/he would answer the phone more efficiently and probably be more skilled at communicating on it since this is all s/he does. And yet.. at the end of the day... the secretary did not personally directly "produce" anything at all (by your mode of calculation).

    The government is in the business of making sure that you can trust other people to honour their contracts with you and not stab you in the back on your way out the door; in protecting your property when you aren't looking, and in making sure the products you buy are relatively safe for you to use, and actually do what you were promised they would do. And to provide certain other services to make the cost of you raising a productive family cheaper than it otherwise would be.

    The effort of you trying to defend yourself, provide your own security and enforce your own contracts would far exceed what you pay the government to provide this service. So the government is to that extent : MAKING YOU MORE PRODUCTIVE.

    A bank would not loan you money at some fairly low interest rate except that the government is going to step in and FORCE you to pay back your loan. Thus the government makes the cost of you borrowing money cheaper. I could go on with dozens of additional examples. A good government SAVES YOU MONEY.

    This is exactly the same as if it was the government which was being productive in the first place, since the end result is the same :greater productivity.

  • .xxx (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @07:04PM (#16329483) Homepage
    This sort of thing gives some justification for enforcing the .xxx domain.

    Simply block .xxx at the corporate firewall and a big part of your problem goes away.

  • by Frenchy_2001 ( 659163 ) on Thursday October 05, 2006 @08:00PM (#16330245)
    I agree with you.
    But this has to be taken with some perspective.

    Next week, the report will be about how bathroom breaks cost the government 2.5 million dollars and that smoke and coffee break are actually a sinkhole at over 4 million dollars.

    The study is talking about 15 minutes per day.
    This stems from the stupid assumption that people have to be performing at work for (at least) 8h straight (somehow, those studies never talk about unpaid overtime...). The y talk productivity with metrics that are highly irrational (taking a break can be GOOD for productivity).

    So, in conclusion, this study does not bring anything to the table and just goes for the shock factor.
    Color me surprised...
  • Re:Hmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by starlageek ( 1009993 ) <> on Thursday October 05, 2006 @11:20PM (#16332115)
    Well, they *are* government employees. They probably spend more time staring at the wall, scratching their rear ends than surfing the internet. Or sleeping at their desks.

    I worked at an air force base and was ragged on constantly for 'surfing the internet' when I was supposed to be working (never mind that 99% of my surfing was legit). Apparently, taking smoke breaks every hour, staring at the wall, and wandering around the office for hours on end, annoying people was A-OK as long as you weren't SURFING THE INTERNETS!!! Trust me when I say these guys are wasting more time doing other things than surfing the net. (don't mind me, just trapping spam...)

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling