Writing an acceptable use policy for print hardware

Most companies have an acceptable use policy for employee email and internet access but there is also a need to cover the area of printing and this article aims to show what the specific requirements are to develop such a policy and the technology and legislation that enforce it.

The need for an acceptable use policy governing printers

Printers are very much a part of any modern office and the ever increasing quality of the hardware and decreasing purchase cost means that this is likely to be the case for the forseable future. However the ubiquituous workgroup printer does open a company up to significant costs and risks and it is therefore sensible to take steps to reduce this.

The first and most obvious cost is the cost of consumables. Even though the price of an individual printed sheet is only a few pence the large volume of printouts created in a typical office soon adds up to a significant cost.

Another less obvious cost is the cost that could arise through inappropriate use of the print equipment from litigation and breaches of copyright.

Monitoring printer usage

In order to enforce an acceptable usage policy it is necessary to monitor what is being printed and by whom. This can be by a manual process (for example having someone responsible for logging all or a sample of what is printed) or by printer usage monitoring software

Privacy and data protection issues

Although the print hardware and monitoring system are the property of the company it is reasonable to expect the employee to have rights with regard to provacy and data protection.

Specifically they should have the right to see what information is held about them - i.e to read the print log pertaining to their user name and the right to have this information deleted if they leave the employ of the company

A sample acceptable use policy

Section 1: General policy statement

The purpose of this section is to state what the acceptable use policy is, who it applies to and why it is required

Important - you must read this statement

This document forms part of your contract of employment. By signing this document you are agreeing to abide by the terms of this policy. Failure to comply may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of contract. It may also lead to civil action and recovery of any damages

The use of all print devices owned or operated by company name is logged and monitored

These guidelines have been developed to minimise the liability to company name and to yourself as an employee from the use of these print devices

Section 2: Monitoring

This section specifies that the use of the printers is monitored and how the company may use such information as is gathered.

The use of company name print devices is monitored and details of every print job submitted are stored and reviewed regularily

The usage logs are kept and company name reserve the right to produce them in the event of any dispute arising from the use of the print equipment, both internal and external to the company

If you would like more information about the monitoring policy please contact responsible person

Section 3: Copyright

The law of copyright differs between nations and there are numeruous excemptions for libraries and public offices, but in general a company could find itself with a potential legal case to answer if it allowed its print equipment to be used in the generation of infringing copies of any copyrighted materials.

The use of the print devices is subject to copyright law and it is your responsibility that any printing you perform is in compliance with local copyright legislation.

Section 4: Document confidentiality

Particularily in an environment where printers are shared or located in an area accessible to the public there is a risk that documents containing confidential information could be have their confidentiality compromised. Employees need to be made aware of their responsibility to make sure confidential documents are not left sitting on the printer and are disposed of securely (for example in a shredder) if printed in error.

Hard copies of documents generated as part of your employment at company name may contain confidentail material. Where applicable it is your responsibility to ensure such documents are not left in any place that would compromise their confidentiality and that any unwanted print outs you generate are disposed of in a secure manner.

Section 5: Your rights

As noted earlier, the employee should be notified of their rights pertaining to the data collected in monitoring the print devices

You have the right to access the information held in the print log. If you require access to this information contact responsible person

In the event of your employment with company name ending you have the right to have information held about you in the print log removed or anonymised

Section 6: Sign off

To enforce this policy you need to ensure that each employee has read and understood it. A signed off copy should be filed to this effect.

By signing this document you certify that you have read and understood this acceptable use policy and agree to the terms herein.