By John Foley
Date: May 12, 2003
For Dorothea Perry and Robert Gross, the course of action seemed clear enough when Gross, an IT support specialist working
at New York Law School, opened a folder on a faulty PC last June only to discover thumbnail images of naked young girls in
sexually explicit positions. The IT colleagues reported the finding to their manager, setting off a chain of events that
resulted in the arrest of the professor who used the computer and, last month, his guilty plea. An open-and-shut case,
Not by a long shot. Within a few weeks of reporting what they saw on the PC of professor Edward Samuels, a copyright law expert, Perry and Gross found themselves on slippery footing with their employer, Collegis Inc., an IT outsourcing company under contract to New York Law School. Both workers were put on probation for a range of issues unrelated to the child-porn finding, and in October, they were fired.
Collegis insists there's no connection between the two developments, but the broad outlines of the case still raise questions about IT's responsibility in dealing with the serious problem of child pornography on workplace computers: Do businesses have clear policies that forbid employees from storing child pornography on computers and guidelines for what system administrators should do if they encounter it? Should the law, as it does in at least one state, South Carolina, require that IT professionals report incidents of suspected child pornography? And is it really necessary for help-desk technicians to delve into personal files when troubleshooting or is that an invasion of privacy?