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I wrote a paper on e-mail and privacy for an MBA class last semester.
E-mail privacy is a hot issue right now and there are many periodical
articles dealing with this. If you live near a university that has InfoTrak (a
database for newspapers, journals, and periodicals), you can pull up
hundreds of abstracts about this issue.
There have been many recent cases where employees' e-mail was
monitored by their employers (i.e., Alana Shoars v.s. Epson America)
and many of these have wound up in court. In all of the cases that I read
about, the courts ruled in favor of the employer. The general attitude is
that the companies own the computing and e-mail resources and have
the right to monitor their employees' e-mail traffic. However, Sen. Paul
Simon (IL) has introduced The Privacy for Consumers and Workers Act
(1992) which, among other things, would require employers to provide
employees with prior written notice of electronic (including e-mail)
It seems that these privacy abuses are rare and the best way to prevent
them is to have a written e-mail policy that is communicated to all users.
Companies that I researched had various approaches to their policies.
UPS for example, restricts e-mail use to company business and reserves
the right to monitor e-mail. From all I have read, this appears to be
acceptable to employees.
If you are interested in writing a policy for your company, the Electronic
Mail Association (EMA) publishes a handbook to help you formulate a
policy. Our company has ordered this book but have not yet received it.
The book costs $45 and is available from the EMA, 1555 Wilson Blvd.,
Suite 300, Arlington Va. 22209-2405; 703-875-8620; fax, 703-522-0241.
As for the e-mail "police", the best way to protect yourself is to not send
anything that you may later regret. Depending on the e-mail system you
use, it is extremely easy to read someone's e-mail. A password
provides some protection but e-mail administrators can get by these.
And remember, just because you delete a message does not mean that it
These are just a few things that I learned from my research and if I can
provide further assistance, I will be glad to. Jerry Staton
Internet:staton -at- connect4 -dot- slc -dot- paramax -dot- com
Product Information Specialist
Unisys Corporation, SLC UT