For Your Eyes Only…Or Is It?

Do you know how private your email really is?

Most of us assume that our work email accounts are fair game…that our employers have the right and the responsibility to monitor the email sent from their employees’ accounts. After all, if the person down the hall starts sending threatening emails to Bill Gates, wouldn’t you want to know?

What many of us don’t realize is that any emails sent from your employer’s equipment or facility can be read and tracked. In fact, your employer is entitled to review any communication trafficked through their server.

That means that if you use your work laptop to read your personal email from a Yahoo, Google or Hotmail account, they have the right to read it.

In recent years, employees have fought (unsuccessfully) to assert their rights to privacy, so the trend seems to indicate that the justice system may be erring toward a more conservative interpretation of this issue.

In 2006, the advocacy organization Privacy Rights Clearinghouse declared, “Currently, there are very few laws regulating employee monitoring.” And the group cautions that even an employer’s published policies regarding workplace privacy may “not necessarily” be legally binding.

We don’t believe there’s cause to be paranoid about who’s reading your email, but there certainly is reason to be responsible. Much of it comes down to common sense:

  • Practice basic email etiquette in terms of what you send.
  • Be aware of how much time you spend on personal email accounts.
  • Recognize that—outside the confessional—no communication is truly private.

And remember that although Big Brother isn’t always watching, he may be reading.