Re: Big Brother is watching?

Subject: Re: Big Brother is watching?
From: Katie Kearns <kkearns -at- cisco -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 12:00:59 -0700

At 11:25 AM 4/17/01 -0700, you wrote:

I understand the drivers behind this kind of
surveillance. However, there are no policies
indicating what actions are considered improper
use of company property.

Well, you don't mention whether you want legal opinions or just personal opinions, so I'll try giving you both. ;)

I think that's something you discuss with your manager -- ask your manager if X, Y, or Z is considered an appropriate use of your time/company resources, etc..

Are my STC-related
e-mails going to get me fired?

Personally, I'd say no. But that's up to your company, legally. Ask your manager. ;)

Similarly, if
I post an e-mail to TECHWR-L that contains
information about a product in development
(and, presumably, a technical issue that I
need assistance resolving) is that considered
a breach of confidentiality?

Depends on what specifically you say about the product. You should be able to get technical help without spilling the beans. But if you do tell us you're working on the SuperSecrectGizmo, I think your boss would be upset and your company might resort to firing or suing you.

At my previous job, our technical writing
department manager used to regularly screen
our e-mails for evidence of job dissatisfaction,
job hunting, or slanders of her managerial
talent. At least one member of the department
was reprimanded by this manager for complaining
about the manager in a supposedly private
Yahoo! e-mail. Was this legitimate or was this
an invasion of privacy?

Legally, it is legitimate. Whatever you do at work on work resources are their business.

Personally, I find it a horrible quality in a manager, and I wouldn't really stand for it. People whine about stuff. It's what they do. If the manager goes to the trouble of reading it and gets upset, that's your manager's stupid problem.

How widespread is the use of surveillance in

Pretty widespread, methinks. People are terribly afraid that their employees are goofing off and looking at porn all day. Of course, they seem to be missing the point that people were perfectly capable of goofing off before the Internet. :P I believe people should evaluate their employees based on their output, not how many hours they give or how they spend their time. It's far more meaningful.

Are companies obligated to inform
employees that their correspondence and
actions are being screened?

I don't think so. Should they? Maybe... maybe not.

How common is it
for managers to screen the e-mails (and files)
of the people in their department?

Probably depends on the company culture. Email are usually screened at last by a virus checker, but if my manager is spending all her time reading my email, I'm wondering what, exactly, her manager is evaluating her on. There's plenty of better ways for a manager to spend their time!

At what
point does a manager/company cross the line
and invade an employee's privacy?


If they follow you to your house? :P If you do it at work, you're doing it at work, and legally, it's their business. If you don't want them in your space, use a personal computer on a personal Internet connection on a personal email address, etc..

Finally, remember that it isn't just your manager. The techies at our company can read all your email. They could set up filters to weed out the "juicy" stuff for kicks. Anything that leaves your intranet is capable of being viewed by just about anyone. Anything you send out on the Internet (including requests for pages) is logged in countless routers. Your fingerprints are all over the place, you just didn't realize it. ;) Countless servers are holding all sorts of crazy email and files -- perhaps for decades. The FBI uses "Carnivore" to search everything for 'threats to national security'. And the so-called "Echelon" is doing the same thing, only on a more world-wide basis (if you believe it really exists).

I find it amusing to look up my name on various search engines and see what people could easily find out about me. ;)

So! What does this mean? Stop doing things you're ashamed of! If you can't justify it, why are you doing it?

-Katie, who learned never to put anything in writing if she didn't want the world to read it.

PS -- I learned this when I was 7 and I wrote "I love XXXXX" on a piece of paper. It was found by my brother and joyously paraded all around the house so that every single family member could ridicule me for the next 10 years of my life. ;)


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