housIT is a virtual community of people interested or involved in housing to share knowledge and skills about best practice and innovation relating to housing and IT.
The Housing Corporation have very kindly provided this, their code of practice on the use of e-mail, the government intranet and the Internet.



1.1 The purpose of this guidance is to provide information on the issues related to the use of e-mail, the Government Intranet (GSX) and the Internet. It explains how e-mail and Internet access should be used and sets out what you are allowed to do and what you are not allowed to do. Attached to this document are five appendices:

Appendix 1: Do's and don'ts of external e-mail.

Appendix 2: Do's and don'ts for browsing the Internet.

Appendix : Legal implications.

Appendix 4: Glossary of computer jargon terms.

Appendix 5: Signed declaration form.

1.2 We can all gain benefits in our work through the use of e-mail to communicate with external organisations and individuals, and from accessing the enormous store of information on the Internet. The aim of this guidance is to encourage reasonable, responsible and well-informed behaviour along with good management practice.

1. The code of practice and rules are intended to avoid staff placing themselves or the Corporation in positions where problems and legal issues can arise, particularly those related to harassment, defamation, copyright, entering contracts, pornography and official information. The guidance does not alter the existing staff rules in relation to the inappropriate use of Corporation IT and communication resources, e.g. telephones, computer hardware and software, mail delivery services and photocopying.

1.4 You should be aware that the Corporation will monitor and audit the use of e-mail, the GSX and the Internet, in a similar way to the logging of telephone usage. Messages and information you send or receive will be recorded and may be inspected. You should also be aware that items deleted on PC's are recoverable and unsuitable material can be restored and used as evidence against an individual or the Corporation. Failure to comply with this policy may therefore result in:
disciplinary action being taken against you which, depending on the gravity of the offence, may be considered gross misconduct;
legal claims against you and/or the Corporation (see appendix ).

1.5 It is essential that you read this code of practice and the accompanying appendices carefully before using any external e-mail or Internet facilities. If there is anything that you do not understand, it is your responsibility to ask your line manager to explain it to you. Once you have read and understood the policy, you must sign the declaration at appendix 5 and send it to your divisional or regional personnel officer. Fax a copy to ISD customer services and keep a another for your own records. Staff who are unwilling to sign will not be allowed to use external e-mail, the GSX or the Internet.



2.1 The Internet is in effect an extremely large network of computers allowing information exchange across the world. Users are also able to download information on a wide range of subjects and software. Another use of the Internet is e-mail. This allows people to send messages and attachments across the net, much as they would a normal letter or fax. The world's telephone system - including satellites - is used as the infrastructure of the Internet.

2.2 The Corporation is now part of the GSX - one of the new networks encompassing government departments, agencies and their subsidiary bodies. Like many of these organisations, the Corporation has connected its internal network and e-mail system to the Internet via the GSX.




.1 The Corporation's e-mail system is for business use. However, as with the rules on telephones, occasional and reasonable personal use is permitted provided this does not interfere with the performance of your duties. You must be aware that when using the service for whatever reason, you are acting in your official capacity as a Corporation employee, and must not therefore express controversial opinions or make derogatory statements since e-mail can be construed as libellous. Although this document primarily deals with e-mail outside the Corporation's network, the principles apply equally to all e-mail messages, whether internal or external.

.2 All staff can send or receive e-mail anywhere on the GSX or the Internet but this does not include executable files (programs) or encrypted files, e.g. password-protected ZIP files. Messages may include attachments although these must not be greater than 0.5 megabytes - this is roughly equivalent to 0 sides of typed, non-graphical A4 text. You should be aware that the transfer of any graphics will almost always exceed this. If in doubt, you must check with your line manager or ISD Customer Services before sending any mail. In any case, please refer to the published guidance which explains how to send an external e-mail message.

. You should also be aware that an e-mail sent by you can be copied to any number of recipients anywhere on the Internet. In practice, an Internet e-mail is the electronic equivalent of a postcard, i.e. readable by anyone. Similarly, when receiving e-mail you should not assume the message is from whom it claims to be, or that its content or attachments are what was originally sent. Appendix 1 contains important guidance on do's and don'ts in relation to e-mail.

GSX & Corporation Web Site

.4 All staff may access GSX sites. This includes visiting sites, printing pages and downloading documents and files using the browser. There is a wealth of useful information on the Government sites in relation to our work but before attempting to use the intranet for research you must read the guidance.

.5 The Corporation's web page is on the Government network and is the first site you will see when logging on to the GSX/Internet. The initial purpose of the site will be for selling publications but it will be developed over time, e.g. all our job vacancies will eventually be advertised on line. Staff should make a point of regularly visiting the site in order to gain improved awareness of the Corporation's messages and initiatives.

Internet Browsing

.6 Some organisations provide Internet access only to those who can justify a business need for it. We are allowing all staff access because we believe that it is increasingly going to be a vital tool in the way the Corporation works and we want everyone to become comfortable with it. This approach relies heavily on staff using the facility responsibly. So whilst you are allowed to make occasional and reasonable private use of the Internet this must not be at the expense of your work. It is for line managers to judge what is acceptable but excessive use which impacts on your performance is clearly unreasonable. Staff who abuse the system will have the facility withdrawn.

. You can print web pages and download documents and files using the browser - as long as these are not executable files (programs) or encrypted files - although you will not be able to access certain types of unsuitable or secure sites and services. As with e-mail and the GSX, you must refer to the guidance on how to use the Internet properly and effectively.

.8 Information from the Internet needs to be viewed and used with caution. Unlike traditional commercial information channels where contracts and liabilities ensure quality, there are no such controls on the Internet and consequently verification of sources is necessary. Information may not be current, complete or accurate and is also subject to copyright and established libel laws. Appendix 2 contains some important do's and don'ts in relation to Internet browsing.

.9 Although a huge amount of valuable information is now on-line, access to the Internet is open to misuse. In addition to problems of time management, specific issues can arise in relation to the retrieval and distribution of undesirable material. As with e-mail and the GSX, individual use of the Internet will be monitored and all sites visited will be logged. Staff who deliberately visit, view or download any material from any Web site containing illegal, pornographic, racist or sexist material will be subject to disciplinary proceedings.




Make use of the e-mail facility in place of paper based methods, wherever possible.
Ensure your password is secure, and that it is not divulged to anyone else.
Be aware that your e-mail will be electronically scanned for obscene, indecent, illegal and unethical remarks.
Take care that you express yourself in a way that will not be deemed defamatory. E-mail comes within the libel laws and as such, both you and the Corporation can be sued for the content of your mail.
Check the e-mail address before you send the document, as once sent it cannot be retrieved. (An internal e-mail may be recalled if the addressee has yet to read it).
Ask recipients of important or time critical messages to acknowledge receipt of your document.
Deal promptly with messages received from external organisations and the public within the timescales set down in the service standards. Send an e-mail reply as an acknowledgement if you cannot reply within the agreed period.
Take care when sending an e-mail, or replying, to a group of people which contains both internal and external addresses, and ensure that the content is appropriate and unclassified.
If you are given proxy for another users e-mail, ensure that it is checked regularly, and appropriate action taken where necessary.
If you feel an e-mail would be relevant to a wide group of people, make use of any forum system available.
Keep a list of useful addresses for future use in your system address book.
Occasional and reasonable use of personal e-mail is permitted as long as this does not interfere with the performance of your duties.
Inform Customer Services if you receive a large number of unsolicited e-mails.

Do not misuse the system for personal mail, as this may cause unnecessary congestion at the gateway.
If you feel that external users or organisations will abuse your e-mail address, do not divulge it.
Do not send attachments of over 0.5 megabytes - equivalent to about 30 typed A4 pages.
Do not send graphics under any circumstances.




The Internet is available primarily for business purposes, however ...
Occasional and reasonable personal use of the Internet and GSX is permitted as long as this does not interfere with the performance of your duties.
Keep a list of useful Web sites and ensure that others who may find a specific site useful are aware of its address.
Inform Press and PR of any useful links which may be made with the Housing Corporation Web site or any improvements you feel could be made.
Do ask Customer Services for help and advice on using the Internet if you are experiencing difficulties.
Speak to your line manager and contact Customer Services if you find that access to a particular site is blocked, but that you feel that its content is appropriate for your business needs.
Should you inadvertently find yourself at an Internet site with inappropriate or offensive material disconnect from the site immediately and let your line manager know. Inform Customer Services of the address so the site may be blocked in future.

Do not visit, view or download any material from any web site that contains illegal and/or pornographic, racist or sexist material.
Do not subscribe to any bulletin boards, news groups or any other Internet service without prior written agreement from your Director or cost centre manager and Customer Services.
Do not allow those without access, to use your computer in order to gain access to the Internet.
Do not assume information on the Internet is accurate, complete, valid or up to date.
Never download software onto the Housing Corporation's system without the prior written permission of Customer Services. This includes software and shareware available free of charge from the Internet.




You should be aware of the following Acts of Parliament which are in place to protect both yourself, and the Housing Corporation.

The Data Protection Act 1998

The Act requires departments and agencies to process computerised personal data fairly. Auditing of e-mail or Internet usage falls into two main groups: logging/monitoring of use and inspecting the actual content of e-mails and Internet sites visited or downloaded. The 1998 Act does not prohibit pre-announced routine audits or targeted audits, but there must be a good reason: expenditure, unlawful acts, suspicions about defamation, copyright infringement and harassment. Therefore auditing is acceptable if carried out as part of a published policy as long as users are advised in advance - this is what the Corporation is doing by issuing this code of practice and getting you to sign for it.

In relation to the actual content. An organisation is entitled to monitor the content of work-related e-mail and Internet usage to reduce employer liability for employee action and to prevent abuse of government-owned equipment. Monitoring the content of personal e-mail/Internet usage is a more involved issue. If an employee does not consent to this then the organisation will certainly contravene the data protection legislation and breach the implied duty of trust and respect within the contract of employment - signing the acknowledgement form in appendix 8 will therefore be deemed to give this consent. However, the Corporation will not examine the content of e-mails unless there are good reasons to suspect the system is being abused and the rules ignored.

In principle, the Act allows an employee to access any personal data collected by an audit.

Human Rights Act 1998

The present Government's commitment to incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law has led to the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998. This Act which, amongst other things covers the right to privacy, will come into force in 2000. In future, a UK citizen will be able to assert their Convention rights through the national courts without having to take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights.

Telecommunications Act 1984

The transmission of an obscene or indecent image from one computer to another via a "public telecommunications system" is an offence under this Act.

Obscene Publications Act 1959

All computer material is subject to the conditions of this Act, under which it is a criminal offence to publish an article whose effect, taken as a whole, would tend to deprave and corrupt those likely to read, see or hear it.

A computer disk, including the principal hard disk of the computer, can constitute an obscene article for the purposes of this Act if it contains or embodies matter that meets the test of obscenity. 'Publish' has a wide meaning and is defined as including distributing, circulating, selling, giving , lending offering for sale of for lease. It seems clear that material posted to a news group or published on the World Wide Web page falls within the legal definition of publishing and is therefore covered by the Act. The publisher would appear to be the originator or poster of the item.

Protection of Children Act 1987; Criminal Justice Act 1988

These Acts make it a criminal offence to distribute or possess scanned, digital or computer-generated facsimile photographs of a child under 16 that are indecent.

Protection from Harassment Act 1993; Sex Discrimination Act 1975; Race Relations Act 1967

Harassment and discrimination are unlawful, whether or not the use of work-based communications facilities have played a role.




Either the address of a user of a system, as in an e-mail address or the address of a site on the Internet.

A computer system which transfers data between networks.

One of the Government secure intranets.

An entry on the log file of a web server. A hit is generated by every request made to a web server.

Clicking on a hyperlink will take you to a linked page (usually referred to as "the link") which can be on any site any where on the World Wide Web. Hyperlinks often appear as underlined key words on a Web page.

HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP)
This is the most commonly used method of transferring information across the Web and presented to the user when it arrives.

Internet Protocol (IP)
The mechanism for controlling the data which flows across the Internet.

IP Address
The IP Address is a unique identifier that can be used to locate the computer that sent a particular e-mail or visited Web site.

Search Engine
A database of information which links to certain key words, when queried by users. Internet users can use this data to find the information required.

Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
This system attempts to standardise the location or address of a Web site, e.g. http://www.

Web Page
A section of information accessed by a user.

Web Server
A computer which hosts one or many Web sites and is permanently connected to the Internet.

Web Site
A group of linked Web pages.

World Wide Web (WWW)
A hypertext based information and resource system for the Internet.




I have read and understood the Housing Corporation's code of practice on the use of external e-mail, the GSX and the Internet. I understand the Corporation will monitor my use of e-mail and the GSX/Internet and may inspect the content of messages sent and received and Web pages visited. I agree to abide by the rules and am aware that failure to comply with the policy may result in disciplinary action being taken and/or legal claims being made against me.

Name: _________________________ Reg/Div: _____________________

Post: _________________________ User ID: _____________________

Signed: _________________________ Date: _____________________

Please fax a copy of this form to ISD (x 4545), keep a copy for your records and return the signed original to your divisional/regional personnel officer.

Thanks to partners...