Surfing the Net at Palo Alto City Hall and the Costs to Taxpayers

City of Palo Alto Surfing the Web on Taxpayers Dime

Our decision to block the web surfing abilities of the city of Palo Alto to our site did not come easy and as our director of IT stated, “there one of our biggest customers”.

From there site visits alone, we were able to analyze through data mining, popular pages, entry pages, exit pages, came from, keyword analysis, recent keyword analysis, recent came from, exit links, exit links activity and downloads a gold mine of behind the scenes activity a watershed of information.

At the same time we realized city government employees were surfing the web on our taxpayer monies.  That’s extortion in my eyes, stealing monies off the backs of taxpayer while they should be working for us!

And they have the audacity for wanting to negotiate an increase in salaries and benefits when they should be looking at ways to save money.

Stop surfing the web on our dime!

Why would the city want to surf our site anyway? In the eyes of city attorney Donald Larkin former TOP city attorney for the city of Palo Alto stated were not considered a news reporting agency, were not “bona fide” reporters and he has directed city staff not to speak to us or grant us interviews [blacklisting] and yet they were, were one of our biggest customers.  Go figure!

The actual lose in non-productivity in surfing the web can be staggering. One such white paper study by ** GFI – Internet monitoring: not ‘Big Brother’ but ‘Wise Management’ was quite revealing.


  • “According to IDC Research, 30% to 40% of Internet use in the workplace is not related to business.”
  • “The cost of employees surfing the web from their office PCs is estimated to cost US companies more than $1 billion dollars a year”

Our data revealed that the Palo Alto police department was the largest abuser of non-productivity time .  Hundreds of hours spent surfing our site when in fact they should have been out policing our streets a job well compensated for.

This is just one other area which we believe is out-of-control under police Chief Dennis Burns’s leadership with no accountability and or transparency in sight by anyone!!  Here’s a brief snapshot and calculation of the city of Palo Alto’s employees attempts to access our site since imposing our ban.

Note our chart of their activities for all departments.

Time spent surfing by the City of Palo Alto and its employees.

Less than 5 secs 

From 5 secs to 30 secs 

From 30 secs to 5 mins 

From 5 mins to 20 mins 

From 20 mins to an hour

Longer than an hour 

City of Palo Alto Employee Surfing Stats

First Time Visitors 

1-5 Returning Visits 

6-10 Returning Visits 

10+ Returning Visits 

Time spent surfing City of Palo Alto
City of Palo Alto Surfing Stats

Now, for the actual non-productive time spent as waist in terms of dollars lost to the taxpayers of the City of Palo Alto?

We beleive accountability and transparency for this task should come from the cities finance department.

It should be their responsibility to calculate this lost time  in productivity and to hold all those responsible for potential fraud and extortion of taxpayers monies.

However, for those of you who are math wiz’s and based on our analysis, we have provider 2009 Gross Salaries for the city of Palo Alto in excel format for the purposes of your own analysis and the actual losses may taser you to your senses that our current city leadership is simply not doing the job to which they were elected for.

Internet Monitoring – GFI White Paper

City of Palo Alto 2009 Gross Salaries

**About GFI, GFI Software provides web and mail security, archiving, backup and fax, networking and security software and hosted IT solutions for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) via an extensive global partner community.

GFI products are available either as on-premise solutions, in the cloud or as a hybrid of both delivery models. With award-winning technology, a competitive pricing strategy, and a strong focus on the unique requirements of SMEs, GFI satisfies the IT needs of organizations on a global scale.

The company has offices in the United States (North Carolina, California and Florida), UK (London and Dundee), Austria, Australia, Malta, Hong Kong, Philippines and Romania, which together support hundreds of thousands of installations worldwide.

GFI is a channel-focused company with thousands of partners throughout the world and is also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. More information about GFI can be found at

Up-dated: July 1, 2011.   One PAPD alleged internet abuser identified as Sergeant Scott Savage.

13 May09:49:38 AMIE 8.0
1280×720 Sunnyvale,
United StatesComcast Cable ( Scott Savage

2 Replies to “Surfing the Net at Palo Alto City Hall and the Costs to Taxpayers”

  1. 6/29/2011
    Hi Mark,
    You have written yet another important piece re the often and apparent ongoing hypocrisy of some in city government. If–as your article suggests– the city attorney’s office has had a hand in blacklisting your publication –it would be ironic to say the least– if city employees –on city time–are in fact surfing your publication’s web site during working hours.

    In fact—depending on just how much time any one employee is spending on your site–during work hours—it might in fact be the basis for discipline of that worker—including—depending on his/her prior work record– termination from city employment.

    And—if it turns out to be the case—that the time spend on your site and other non-job related sites –is excessive–it could in fact form the basis for filing criminal charges—theft of city funds –is the first charge that comes to mind—against the offending employee.

    In any event, I commend you and your paper for your continued effort to force/bring more transparency to our city government.

    Below you will find a letter I sent to you and others, earlier in the week–re a possible long term solution/alternative to the current lame version of police oversight most often relied on by cities in our county–including Palo Alto. Let me know what you think:

    6-27-2011 ( RE Why We Need A Police Crimes Unit in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office–by Aram James)

    Hi Mark ( Paloaltofreepress):

    By the way–in the not too distance future–I will be writing a position paper–short article–re why I believe our District Attorney–Jeff Rosen –should form a Police Crimes Unit as a substitute ( or in addition to) for local law enforcement agencies’ internal affairs units and local IPA offices–both, in my mind and experience–hapless gatekeeper institutions.

    I think in San Jose the statistics are something like 200 complaints a year–with 99%-100% determined to be unfounded. And, of course–the IPA does not have independent power, no mandate and no resources to carry-out its own investigation of alleged misconduct—nor do they have the ability to independently discipline police officers–terminate their employment or carry out any prosecutorial functions against rogue police officers.

    I think it was the former head of the ACLU Police Practices Project (John Crew)—who referred to this type of police oversight as the– “Consumer Fraud Version of Police Oversight.”

    I understand this is a hot-button political issue– but if any District Attorney-will consider the idea–if I can put together a convincing argument/case–it is Jeff Rosen and his current administration.

    I am not Pollyannaish about my chances–but believe–given the ever shifting demographics in this county–and the very high education level of all of our diverse communities in Santa Clara County–that soon-there will be a call-out/demand for an institution re police accountability that actually provides real (with teeth) –not just lip service –remedies for cases of outrageous police murder, misconduct, abuse and racially discriminatory law enforcement of all types.

    Okay–I will let you know when I have an article ready on the subject–but you get the idea. Let me know what you think.
    Best regards,

    Aram “We Need a Police Crimes Unit Now” James

  2. Your points about wasteful City employee internet surfing look valid to me. The ‘internet miracle’ also has a dark side. All private businesses and government entities are wrestling with the data risks, inefficiencies and waste of unauthorized internet surfing at work. It’s not surprising that this also happens at the City of Palo Alto but it would be wonderful if City employees could be reminded and redirected back to their work rather than dilly dallying on the ‘net.

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