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A person signing a contract; representing that in agreeing to an acceptable use policy, a user swears to follow certain rules and regulations when joining an organization or using their resources.

What is an Acceptable Use Policy?

An acceptable use policy is a document that contains rules and policies that someone must agree to and follow before joining a network, organization, or something similar. Most businesses or institutes for educational purposes require employees or prospective students to sign an acceptable use policy before being accepted to the organization. Because of the information technology – known as the IT – perspective, an acceptable use policy makes it clear what someone can and can’t do when using numerous forms of technology and other resources. This is the rule regardless of whether the technology has been already provided or if it is personal.

One of the main benefits of an acceptable use policy is that it states what are acceptable and unacceptable rules and standards of behavior for employees or students. If these rules are not met, employees or other members will be subject to consequences, such as expulsion from the group. Some of the other benefits of implementing an acceptable use policy include informing employees of the rules right away, protecting against legal action, limiting the personal use of an organization’s resources, assisting with cost control, and protecting the organization’s reputation when faced with problems. Therefore, an organization should make sure to invest in acceptable use policy writing services in order to gain such benefits.

Elements Surrounding Acceptable Use Policy

Something that often works in conjunction with an acceptable use policy are Internet Service Providers. An internet service provider is an organization that allows customers to make use of the internet. These require people to sign an acceptable use policy before granting them use of the internet. This connects to the service legal agreement between the internet service provider and whoever the customer may be. There are eight elements of an acceptable use policy:

  1. Not using the service in any violation of the law
  2. Not trying to disrupt the information of any computer network, such as utilization of the internettwo people shaking hands while reaching over a desk, representing the benefits of an acceptable use policy for employers
  3. Not posting commercial messages to use net groups without prior approval
  4. Not sending junk emails or spam to people who do not want to receive them
  5. Not attempting to steal intellectual property
  6. Requiring users to report an attempt to break into their account
  7. Being aware that consequences will be made if the acceptable use policy is in any way violated
  8. Knowing that the acceptable use policy relates to information technology and is subject to periodic audits

How are Acceptable Use Policies Used?

  1. Social Media: Acceptable Use Policy sets standards on how people should use social media sites and what also should not be said about businesses and companies.
  2. Internet Use: Policies typically go over whether an organization’s computer systems can be used only for businesses. They are not allowed for personal usage, such as gaming, emails, gambling, texting, or any non-related work activities.
  3. Cybersecurity: An acceptable use policy shows the rules that are related to an organization’s information technology policy. These are rules about restricted information, and access to data such as passwords, emails, public Wi-Fi services, and more.
  4. Non-Employee Users: There are policies set on how non-employees utilize company information systems and other network resources
  5. Accessing Private or Confidential Information: Acceptable use policies prevent users from unauthorized access or usage of private information that has not been approved.
  6. Bring Your Own Device: Many organizations allow or require employees to use their own devices for business-related purposes. When bringing your own devices, acceptable use policies are essential for stopping security problems and misunderstandings regarding how the devices are to be used properly.

There are various practices and policies that are implemented by groups to ensure acceptable use policies are followed properly. Signing an acceptable use policy is often mandatory as a part of employee contracts. However, it is important for employees to remember and be aware of their responsibilities long after they first sign the contract, as well as to continually understand and comply with the standards in the acceptable use policy.

The rules of an acceptable use policy are typically created and established by an owner of a company or organization, whether it be a website, online network, or another type of community. An acceptable use policy is implemented in order to reduce the probability of legal action by businesses, schools, and other communities. Because of all this, an acceptable use policy provides expectations for proper behavior.

a group of employees sitting around a large wooden table, representing the importance of having an acceptable use policy in a business

Connection to IT Security

Acceptable use policies relate to computer and information security in a number of ways. This includes managing passwords, protecting online intellectual property, and handling software licenses.

International etiquette is also related to such policies, as it similarly requires people to act according to agreed-upon standards of behavior and considers specific behaviors as acceptable or unacceptable. They also deal with the excessive usage of system resources, and an example is unnecessary traffic due to video games and other activities.

Acceptable Use Policies: Subjects, Scope, and Sanctions

Subjects and Audience

Acceptable use policies, as previously mentioned, are helpful when it comes to new members joining an organization, establishment, or network. In such cases, acceptable use policies discuss what kind of behavior is allowed and what is not regarding the usage of a company’s IT system. It is also important to note that acceptable use policies are used to protect people from becoming a bad influence.

These are used in various institutions, such as schools and companies. These policies and rules often relate to business interests. Again, users have to agree to the terms in all of these policies. Acceptable use policies also have to be short and sweet – if they are too long or complicated, readers will not be able to understand them.

There are many potential audiences for an acceptable use policy. In a general sense, AUPs are targeted to the employees of an organization, but these organizations can span a wide variety of industries. From healthcare to finance and beyond, every industry can utilize acceptable use policies to ensure their employees are in compliance with company policy. Let’s take a look at a more unusual, but important example: schools.

a laptop screen showing a design website, representing the importance of having an acceptable use policy for companies in a variety of industries

Regarding schools, it can be noted that a district’s monitoring of employee internet usage can show all of what an employee has searched and done using the district’s internet system, and monitoring of the district’s internet system shows whether the employee has broken a defined acceptable use policy. Individual searches and inspections can also be done by the district and even the law.

Acceptable use policies dive into many network monitoring strategies. One of the most common strategies is scanning server logs to find if the user has been to any inappropriate or non-related work websites. Another one is through scanning emails. A third one regards checking disk space on shared network drives. A final one is installing filter softwares which could block other websites.


The range and amount of coverage in acceptable use policies can vary in a number of ways. This can apply to users, regions, systems, departments, software, or data that is employed or connected to the owner’s network and computer systems. It is important to be aware of the scope of the policy. First off, this policy applies to Internet access only. It does not dive into the requirements, standards, and procedures for the development of information sites on the Internet.

There are many categories of departmental internet users in these policies. The first is full or part-time employees of the Department of the Interior. The second is volunteers who are authorized to use the Departmental resources to access the Internet. The third is Departmental contractors who are authorized to use facilities and equipment that is owned by the government. This policy also distinguishes between Internet access during normal working hours and those that are personal. As mentioned, the policy applies to Internet Access within the government facilities and all their equipment.

An acceptable use policy statement should be very clear about the laws the acceptable use policy wants to follow. Most people view this policy as being enforced at all times. Besides this, there is another part of such policies. The second part is known as standards – that is, how a member of an organization is expected to behave. There are various standards where the policy is watched in order for the rules to be consistent. Users should be made aware of these standards immediately and should be kept aware of any changes to them.


The third part of an acceptable use policy is known as the code of conduct and sanctions. This means that any act of dishonesty, inappropriate behavior, or anything similar will result in an automatic consequence. This can also mean behaviors that create and distribute material that is considered obscene, offensive, indecent, causing inconvenience, annoyance, or anxiety to its staff and others will be punished. A huge example of this that is common throughout society is known as cyberbullying.  

If there are violations of the policies in an acceptable use policy, sanctions will be brought into play. Sanctions that can be created include temporary or permanent removal of content, suspensions, or even losing your job if the violator is an employee. It is also important to remember that access to the Internet is a privilege, rather than a right, and should not be abused. We also have to remember that acceptable use policies include many forms of communication, such as text, photographs, illustrations, and all recordings.

Final Thoughts

Based on this information, an acceptable use policy is one that has many components. An acceptable use policy also has many standards to follow, and it is important that we remember all of them. An acceptable use policy should state who is in charge and the owner, get rid of and delete any inappropriate forms of behavior, work strictly as a business and not include side information, clearly state the components, and be considerate of remarks from others.

How EDC can Help

Whether you need a single technical writer for a brief project or a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation, the quality of our work is guaranteed for you. Our clients work closely with an Engagement Manager from one of our 30 local offices for the entire length of your project at no additional cost. Contact us at (800) 221-0093 or to get started.