The Wall Street Journal has a good story about the lack of privacy for employees’ data on company computers. (Here’s a related story from February about a study showing 59 percent of former employees “admit to stealing confidential company information, such as customer contact lists.”)
As layoffs sweep across industries, employees’ personal information is winding up in the dustbin, as well. Most workers know better than to store personal files on their office computer. But employees who spend the majority of their time at the office often treat the company PC as their personal gadget, filling it with music, photos, personal contacts — even using the computer’s calendar to track a child’s soccer schedule. That makes it all the more distressing when a newly laid-off worker learns that his digital belongings are company property.
Most companies today have new hires sign electronic communications policies that generally state they have no rights to privacy or rights of ownership over the content on company computers. It doesn’t matter if those files are wedding photos or family phone numbers. […]
Companies often lock down computers and restrict access to email as soon as an employee is let go. “That could vary, but I think it’s safer to expect a harsh response,” says Janine Yancey, chief executive for emTRAiN, a human-resource training company. […]
From a business standpoint, companies that give laid-off workers access to work computers and email risk exposure to data theft, computer viruses and lost contact lists.