I think monitoring e-mails is an infringement of your basic rights to privacy. Just because you are at work, it does not make all you thoughts/ ideas "public". I think the ability to express yourself (no matter who it pleases or upsets) should be without risk to yourself or your position. Everyone should be entitled to their own opinions.
At a previous company, my job was to handle the engineering and support of the whole e-mail system for the European region.
The email system was implemented and owned by the company. The end-user did not pay for their individual email account so it was not their email system to 'use and abuse'.
All talk about invasion of privacy is redundant in my opinion. A work email account should be for work only and if somebody wants to send personal emails then they should do it from their home account.
Brit in USA
Read my email.
Open my mail.
Screen my calls.
Film my movements.
Bug my office.
I am not a number - I am a free man...
Sorry, is this the UK or the USSR?
This is nothing new; employers have been scanning your mail and net usage for years. It can only be a good thing as it prevents abuse of a business tool, keeps network speeds up and makes life for us IT professionals a bit easier. If a stranger you paid came into your house and used your phone - wouldn't you be interested in how and why?
Let's face it, if this was enforced within the workplace bang goes 99% of people's social life.
Oh and where am I sending this from? Mmm you guessed it - work.
People would be outraged if their ordinary mail could be opened
Of course e-mails should not be screened. People would be outraged if their ordinary mail could be opened and read by their employers; e-mail uses a different medium but has exactly the same status as private correspondence. If someone is time-wasting by over-indulging their e-mail habit, then employers will surely notice that that person is behind with their work and can take appropriate action on this basis; no need to read people's e-mails to do that.
If people want to send private e-mails that may contain items their employer will find unacceptable then they should do it either from home or an Internet cafe. You do not own the computer, network, or e-mail address on your desk at work therefore the employer has every right to know what their equipment is being used for. I can especially sympathise with those employers who deal with sensitive/confidential material.
The basic problem is that some employees are lazy and abuse the system provided by their employer, while on the other hand some employers are unreasonable in the way they treat their
workers. A balance needs to be struck that protects both parties: I just hope the law has got it right.
Graham Smye, Italy
At my last place of employment, working in IT support, it was my job to monitor e-mails and Internet access. I personally believe that private e-mails are private, and so I would never read anybody else's mails under any circumstances. The best method to monitor without infringing privacy was to monitor the number and size of e-mails sent every day, and if this exceeded a certain level, then the employee would receive a warning e-mail, and then lose their e-mail rights for a week if this warning was ignored. I don't see how reading the e-mails could result in a better system of monitoring than the one I used, as my method focuses on most employers main concern, which is the cost of personal e-mail and internet use.
I don't think you'll be able to do anything anymore without someone watching your every move.
Slowly and surely our freedom is being clamped down on and no one seems to notice this. It is
happening every day in small steps as if to achieve a bigger goal. To think all those people died in the wars of the world just so we can be free.
Alex Judd, UK
Employers should definitely be allowed to monitor e-mails and Internet usage of their employees, having informed them first that this is a possibility. That way, everyone knows the rules. If employees are worried about their employer reading the content of their e-mail, then they probably shouldn't be sending it. Anyone can install internet/email at home and then send whatever they like from there.
They should respect the integrity of their employees
Mary Cooper, England
Of course e-mails should be confidential and should remain unscreened, as should any form of private mail sent between parties. If firms provide an external e-mail facility, they should respect the integrity of their employees.
Mary Cooper, England
If I receive a private letter addressed to me at work, have the company got the right to open it and read the contents? The answer is no, by law! So why should they have the right to indiscriminate snooping of e-mail? Most companies have a filter system set-up to scan e-mails for certain words. This is fine as it helps cut down on porn and certain items of industrial espionage but the blatant reading of e-mails is a violation of personal privacy. I feel sure that those who read these would not have their e-mails read! That would be invading their privacy.
John C, Warwick, England
If a mail is sent using the company's e-mail address then it is the property of that company. If an obscenity is sent from that mail account, then that company has every right to deal with the issue in the way that it sees fit. At the end of the day, it is the company's reputation is at risk. I doubt if any decent sized organisation has the capability (or will) to monitor each e-mail, and as long as the system isn't abused then there shouldn't be a problem. If I have something private to say, I normally use the phone (remember them?) - it's more effective anyway!
Christopher Laird, Japan
Working in the IT business, I always tell people that "unencrypted email is as secure as sending a postcard". And would you use the company's internal mail to send out suggestive postcards?
Roland Moran, Australia/Scotland
It's a job, not a prison sentence
E-mail has replaced the phone call or casual conversation for many small exchanges. I seriously doubt that anyone would want to monitor office banter. Then why should e-mail be any different? It's a job, not a prison sentence. Though many firms would have it the other way round.
I don't understand the concept of "private" communication when you are using an employer's e-mail, telephone or snail mail. If you don't pay for it don't send it!
Use of someone else's facilities is always subject to the rules regarding the use of those facilities, whether it be e-mail, video, telephone or fax machines. All companies MUST monitor e-mail because THEY are liable for misuse by their employees. A libel dispatched via e-mail can be attributed to the company from which it originated exposing them to severe damages in court.
I am a great believer in personal freedoms but I recognise that employers also have the right to protect themselves from potential damage.
Steve Browne, USA
A small amount of private e-mail, like the occasional private phone call is accepted by a lot of employers, however browsing the web for porn is not.
The simple rule to avoid trouble is not to send anything on an e-mail that you would be embarrassed by your employer overhearing if it was a telephone call.
And to delete messages to be on the safe side!
Brian, U K
When drowned in the busy schedule of work, to receive or send a line or few to a friend, I guess, wouldn't cause a major crisis to the organisation
When drowned in the busy schedule of work, to receive or send a line or few to a friend, I guess, wouldn't cause a major crisis to the organisation - but rather improve the productivity of that staff by having a better frame of mind to work in the coming hours of that day! If one really is geared to pin down this, well then, cut open the mails, throw the ashtrays in the offices, limit and track 'every' phone calls (even within the company, to see if it is business or not)... and spend your resources and valuable hours in finding who is saying 'hi' and who is adding a penny to the balance sheet! Let us sometimes talk sense!
We should at least inform all our correspondents that their incoming mail is being read by a stranger.
From a companies point of view it is not more then normal to monitor e-mail. On average every employee spends about 15 minutes per day on private e-mails. That's one working hour per week. For a company with a 1000 employees that can turn into an expensive issue.
For the user: use the tools available. You don't write what you want to say on the envelope either, do you? By the way Anne: The internet is monitored. Just type echelon into your favourite search engine and be afraid. Big brother is watching all of us, but who's watching big brother?
Employers may have the right to monitor email, but I don't think its wise to do so. You may well catch the odd dosser but you create an atmosphere of distrust. Besides, just imagine what an office full of bores like Asif would be like!
Its quite interesting to see arguments how emails should be monitored as businesses lose money with time wasters. Especially as these views were published during working hours. Shouldn't they be working instead of reading Talking Point!
My employer has the right to screen all email and internet activity undertaken using the system that it pays for. I know this - it was part of the conditions of usage. The company also explicitly permits reasonable personal use of its systems. I know that all my correspondence (including this) may be stored and read. I don't have a problem with that - anything personal that I don't want my employer to read I send/read from home.
I think that as long as employers give prior notice that emails will be subject to screening, and give firm details of the scope of the screening procedures, then it is not an invasion of privacy. However, employers must realise that a small amount of personal use is acceptable (as most already do recognise this for personal telephone calls).
I would not object to business related e-mails being monitored, as these may affect the business or organisation that person/s work for
I don't believe that employers have the right to spy on e-mails of a personal nature. The observer may gain detailed, intimate knowledge of you or your friends and family, and armed with this intimate knowledge the observer could start spreading this to other people or work colleagues very easily, or use this new found knowledge to harm your career. This could have a detrimental effect on your work and interaction with other staff members. Although I would not object to business related e-mails being monitored, as these may affect the business or organisation that person/s work for.
Does the fact I can type at 98 words a minute mean that at least if I do use my office Internet connection for personal e-mails, I get them over with really quickly? Teach people how to type and any accusations of time-wasting or abuse of company equipment seems silly, especially when the average person at my office works erratically long hours and does not often use the phone, but their own mobiles for personal calls.
Christine Kent, UK
Most employers realise that their employees work to get the job done
Phil W, UK - currently in the USA
At my company, obscene Web address URL's are monitored, and warnings given to offenders. If they continue, they are fired. The same applies to poor taste and obscene messages. Those who continue to offend rules of decency, rightly get punished.
Anything of a personal nature which is not offensive is allowed, since most employers realise that their employees work to get the job done, and "sensible" levels and content of private email contact is a perk.
Phil W, UK - currently in the USA
Why is it that people are aggrieved that personal e-mails sent to the office are scanned and monitored? Would you have your personal post addressed to your offices, bills, personal correspondence etc? Perhaps a bad precedence was set when companies became lax over the use of the telephone for personal calls? Or perhaps it is the ease of abuse and the danger of virus contamination? In my personal experience it is those who abuse the system the most that complain the loudest when such "perks" are denied them.
Paul Griffin, UK
I write this opinion from my computer at work. However, I am writing during lunch hour. I think that companies do have the right to monitor employee e-mails and Internet usage, provided that the company makes it very clear that net usage is being monitored. Although my employer doesn't make a big deal about employee net usage, I use the company e-mail only for company business. I may browse the web during lunch hour but that is it.
Hosam, Boston, USA
I have seen the email in question and there is nothing particularly obscene about it
I have seen the email in question and there is nothing particularly obscene about it. Certainly the language would not have to be tempered to appear in any TV production after the 9pm watershed. Secondly, it is the absolute right of the person(s) paying the bill to ensure that their systems are not being used for any illegal practices. Whether that be against company regulations or the law of the land is unimportant.
Surely there are enough free e-mail servers out there so people wouldn't need to use their company e-mail. Unfortunately it's the outgoing mail from people who have no common sense, the ones who will quite happily send ridiculously dirty e-mails to addresses they know are company owned. There is nothing you can do about mindless morons like that. You wouldn't send some of that stuff through a fax machine so why send it by e-mail?
My last boss used to write long emails to his friends outside the company complaining about his colleagues. The messages were extremely derogatory towards a lot of people. A few of us had access to his account and read all this bile and it put us in an awkward situation. Basically, if you are writing something you don't want your employer or colleagues to know about, you shouldn't be sending it via your business email. Get a Hotmail account.
Who is watching the watchers?
Peter Nixon, England
Who is watching the watchers? The law permits companies to snoop on employees' communications as companies see fit, monitoring e-mails and listening in to phone calls. I thought we had moved past the Dickensian management style - or is it returning? I have known managers who censured employees for talking to each other for than five minutes, who prohibited any drinks stronger than coffee and fruit juice during working hours and who then took three hours over their "business lunch", coming back smelling like a distillery. One law for the workers, one less for management.
I'm sat in front of a monitor from 8am until 6pm. I have lunch in front of my terminal - I see internet access and email as a perk. I promise not to visit porn sites on (or off, for that matter) company time, but I wouldn't expect anyone to read my email.
If my email was vetted, then you, dear Talking Point reader, would be denied my banal and half-witted contributions to this column, largely on subjects which I know absolutely nothing about. And that would be a loss.
If employers have a policy of recording employee telephone calls or opening employee mail delivered to the office, then it is consistent to monitor email content too
A straightforward solution would be to maintain consistency with the monitoring of other forms of media.
If employers have a policy of recording employee telephone calls or opening employee mail delivered to the office, then it is consistent to monitor email content too.
If not, then it is not. The only reason controversy arises, is because email is more widely used than the post and much easier to monitor than the telephone.
If companies make it clear first that they are going to be scanning email then that is fine, employees will know not to send sensitive information.
Here in Bombay, we use e-mail to communicate with others in the world. I find it ironic that companies on the one hand encourage the use of technology and on the other hampers it's use. Very strange!
The use of company e-mail for private ends (like this posting for example), is an accepted perk of having to work long hours hunched over a keyboard
The use of company e-mail for private ends (like this posting for example), is an accepted perk of having to work long hours hunched over a keyboard staring at a screen. As such I would not expect my company to read it any more than I would expect them to open letters or parcels addressed to me at work. Although I have no problem with them running a virus / decency filter over my e-mail such as a mail-sweeper type application.
Using your employer's e-mail address (domain name) in personal correspondence is bad practise. Using their internet connection to access your personal e-mail is not.
It is more than reasonable that companies should scan and filter email where necessary, to guard themselves against liability claims (very common here in the US).
Employees cannot expect their business email to remain unscanned and / or unfiltered. They are using a tool supplied by the business, for the business. Norton Rose discovered to their cost that a written email policy doesn't suffice when trying to protect the good name of an organisation.
US / UK
Don't want your company looking at your personal e-mails? Then don't use the tools they provided, at their cost, on their time, whilst neglecting the job that they are paying you to do.
Have two email addresses, one for work, one for personal use.
Use strong encryption (PGP) on personal emails. Electronically sign all emails.
Personally I think that employers have no need to scrutinise their employees' emails. The simple fact is that most personal email is about banal subject matters anyway, such as which pub/ bar we are going to after work or what do you want for Xmas? If they really want to crack down on email abuse employers should encourage the use of web-based email i.e. Yahoo or Hotmail. That way if anything dubious is being sent the company has no link to the sender or recipient and so gets no bad publicity. They should also realise that there is no way that people are going to stop communicating with each other, even in work hours.
Running an e-mail system costs money
It might not be obvious but providing and
running an e-mail system costs money. Employers
pay for this so that you can use it in the course of your
business - just like a phone system. And just like a
phone system, employers (generally) are happy to accept
that a little personal use will occur and turn a blind eye.
However, nobody has the "right" to use a service funded by
someone else for their own purposes. As long as employers make
the rules clear, they have every right to see your work
e-mail. If you want "private" e-mail, get an account at
I hope internet access isn't monitored - how else would I get to read Talking Points??
Residential email should remain private, otherwise it is a breach of the basic human right of privacy.
However, business email should be monitored as time wasting can cost businesses millions and gossip is irrelevant to your job.