aup20.gifAn acceptable use policy (AUP; also sometimes acceptable usage policy or Fair Use Policy) is a set of rules applied by the owner/manager of a network, website, or large computer system that restrict the ways in which the network or system may be used. AUP documents are written for corporation, businessess, universities, schools, website owners, and Internet Service Providers often to reduce the potential for legal action that may be taken by a user, and often with little prospect of enforcement.

An AUP must be conciseand clear, while at the same time covering the most important points about what users are, and are not, allowed to do with the IT systems of an organization. It should refer users to the more comprehensive security policy where relevant. It should also, and very notably, define what sanctions will be applied if a user breaks the AUP.

The most important part of an AUP document is the code of conduct governing the behaviour of a user whilst connected to the network/Internet. The code of conduct may include some description of what may be called netiquette which includes such items of conduct as using appropriate/polite language while online, avoiding legal activities, ensuring that activities the user may embark on should not disturb or disrupt any other user on the system, and caution not to reveal personal information that could be the cause o fidentity theft.
Most AUP statements outline consequences of violating the policy. Such violations are met with consequences depending on the relationship of the user with the organization. Common actions that schools and universities take is to withdraw the service to the violator and sometimes if the activities are illegal the organization may involve appropriate authorities, such as the local police. Employers will at times withdraw the service from employees, although a more common action is to terminate employment when violations may be hurting the employer in some way, or may compromis security. Earthlink, has a very clear policy relating to violations of its policy. The company identifies six levels of response to violations:
  • issue warnings: written or verbal
  • suspend the Member's newsgroup posting privileges
  • suspend the Member's account
  • terminate the Member's account
  • bill the Member for administrative costs and/or reactivation charges
  • bring legal action to enjoin violations and/or to collect damages, if any, caused by violations.
  • Hoover City Schools- Acceptable Use Policy