Sunday, March 18, 2012

Is looking at thumbnails of porn grounds for firing?

Originally published 05/13/2011 on lubbockonline.com

David Kravets of Wired's Threat Level blog reports that a high school biology teacher was fired for studying too much of it on school computers.

When I first read the headline and that the teacher had gotten some "not safe for work" (nsfw) images when searching for "blonde" and been fired because of it, I thought he had gotten a raw deal. Then I read more of the story and learned that he was an idiot. Or thought he was clever and outsmarted himself.

Robert Zellner may have counted on claiming retaliation if he was fired. What he didn't count on is monitoring software put on his computer because his computer had unusual problems. So when he disengaged the schools browsing filters, typed "blonde" into google images and spent a little over a minute looking at pornographic thumbnails the school had complete records.

He may have thought that the fact he only skimmed through pages of porngraphic thumbnails without clicking on any links would save him - he could claim he was looking for something else. But the monitoring software showed that he disabled the porn filters, meaning he wanted to find something he knew the filters would block. Two pages of porn thumbnails made it pretty clear what that was.

It really didn't matter what popped up in the search once he turned off the web filter. Disabling it was probably grounds for firing. But when porn popped up and he didn't instantly close the window, he signed his pink slip.