||It is illegal to play games on our machines. It is illegal to do anything which might result in receiving money. It is illegal to download or stream video or audio (because it hijacks bandwidth, which is a government resource, imagine if all 8000 of our employees at this site steamed music all day) unless it is work related. Similarly, chat programs are not allowed (although this is partly because of virus propogation). The above are specifically outlawed, but much of anything else falls under the umbrella of misuse of government resources. Equipment is for specific work related purposes and any other use is considered misuse unless it is specifically authorized. For example, SETI@home: misuse. Some incidental uses are specifically allowed in our writen incidental computer use policy, such as shopping, but TopCoder clearly falls under the games, money and chat restrictions. Even non-money matches could easily be considered practicing for money matches and I would not want to have to fight that in court.
The reasons for all these restrictions include:
Security: Lots people want to spy on us. Spyware is a whole different universe here. Our security guards carry machine guns. The computer I use to surf at work is very visibly marked "for unclassified use only" because there are other options.
Visibility: Newspaper stories on how we spend our tax dollars on toys for employees and how employees goof off at work are not welcome.
Accountability: Yes they do own all the code I write at work. They also own any code I write outside of work if they feel it is "work related." And they pretty much get to decide what is work related. Using a government disk drive to store a copy of my TopCoder development environment in itself would be considered misuse of government property.
Working for a small private company doing government work is not the same as working directly for the government. We have so many layers of regulations I don't want to think about them. Logic is not important. The regulations don't have to make sense, but I have to follow them.