The Wall Street Journal has an article reminding us to be careful about mixing personal data with business information. (Note the recent New Jersey case, Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, concerning the privacy of employees’ personal e-mail on employers’ computers.)
[T]he fact is that many employees use work email for personal matters and pleasure surf the Internet on company time. According to a 2010 workplace privacy study by Ponemon Institute, a Traverse City, Mich., data-security research firm, 42% of full-time employees in the workplace with a company-assigned email account “frequently use” it for personal communications and another 29% “sometimes” do. […]
As the line is increasingly blurred between personal and professional time, workers need to know about current norms for personal use of their company’s email and other technologies.
For starters, don’t expect email you send at work to remain private. […]
“As a general matter, most employees know that a company’s IT department has access to all emails, that emails are typically backed up or saved, and that emails might be subject to review as part of general IT management or in connection with a litigation or legal process,” [labor and employment law attorney Katharine Parker] says. “Additionally, once an email is sent, the recipient generally can do what he or she wishes with the email, including forwarding it, printing it and otherwise distributing it.”
Ms. Parker also notes that even when employees are allowed some personal use of company technology, policies are designed so that workers can’t be guaranteed that someone else won’t see it. […]
“Employers will say ‘Our computers are the company’s, and while we understand that you may on occasion use these for personal uses you have no expectation of privacy,’ ” [Jane McFetridge, a Chicago employment lawyer,] says. […]
According to the American Management Association/ePolicy Institute survey, 80% of organizations have written email policies, but only 47% of employers train workers about email risks, policies and usage.