Print 40 comment(s) - last by Shida.. on May 25 at 9:36 AM

"I always feel like somebody's watching me"...

Do you ever feel like someone is watching you, waiting for you to make a mistake?  Well if you're part of one of the 41 percent of largest U.S. companies that monitor their employees email on a regular basis, you might not be so crazy after all.

A surprising new survey is illustrative of the increasing loss of privacy on the internet, particular in public locations.  The company that published the study, Proofpoint, states that the cause of this privacy loss is not entirely malicious.  Companies have become fearful of information leaks over email, blogs, message boards, media sharing sites and mobile devices.  Over 44 percent of companies admitted to performing investigations into leaks this year.

Companies are responding by increasing employee monitoring.  Of the companies with over 20,000 employees, approximately 41 percent were found to monitor outbound email.  Of the large companies approximately 22 percent hired employees chiefly for the purpose of monitoring the other employees' email.

Aside from email leaks, 40 percent of companies reported investigating email violations of privacy or data protection regulations.  The results of these investigations -- 26 percent of all companies surveyed report terminating an employee within the last year for email policy violation.  Further, 23 percent of companies responded that their business had been impacted by the release of sensitive or embarrassing materials from within the company.  Of the largest companies, 34 percent report that their employee email was subpoenaed within the last year.

Companies aren’t just worrying about and watching employees' email communications, either.  Of all the companies surveyed, a surprising 27 percent reported that they lost confidential information through lost or stolen mobile devices within the last year.  In the past year 11 percent of companies reported disciplining employees for blogs or message boards.  In addition, 13 percent report punishing employees for inappropriate use of social networking sites and 14 percent report punishing employees for using media sharing sites.

Blogs are also under investigation these days.  Of the companies surveyed 14 percent of companies report investigating the release of material financial information (such as unannounced financial results) on blogs and message boards.

The unfortunate side effect of this trend is that it’s hard to tell companies are merely watching out for their own interests from companies who are looking to snoop inappropriately in employees personal lives.  The trend surely will leave many employees feeling a bit violated.

However, even those employees that are not subject to corporate monitoring may fall under the scope of increased government monitoring programs in the U.S. and abroad.  The UK government recently announced plans to try to collect its citizens' email, web, and phone history.  Web monitoring efforts here in the U.S. are also widely known.  People are having to face the somewhat unpleasant reality that their private lives online are becoming less and less private.

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Part of me says big deal
By Cobra Commander on 5/22/2008 2:02:53 PM , Rating: 5
As an IT Manager of a small-to-medium sized business in Atlanta, GA we have never monitored a single email. People directly ask me "Do you monitor our email?" and I don't lie - I say, "No, but I could if we needed to." and if I like them enough I'll add "but we've never snooped so you don't have anything to worry about unless you create a problem."

However, sometimes it is very easy for people in the work force to conveniently forget they are at work to do a job, and that their personal lives do not belong at work. Therefore when you email your spouse a dirty email you are doing it on your employer's equipment and it is their right to know what's going on. It's about as ignorant as a 3 year old getting caught in the cookie jar - as an adult you can hear them making noise in the kitchen but the child just doesn't think it all the way through.

Yes, there is obviously a valid Big Brother argument to make here but there is an equally if not more valid 'pull your head out of you arse' argument to make as well. It most definitely goes both ways and I'm not sure at all, at least in my eyes, this blog is doing this but often such blogs don't properly paint the full picture.

RE: Part of me says big deal
By InsidiousAngel on 5/22/2008 2:14:15 PM , Rating: 2
I am in a similar situation as an IT Manager for a small-medium company in NC. I have verbatim told them exactly what you have; the only difference here is I have to control internet access, but not for Big Brother reasons, but more of a system managing the people vs. management managing the people. I won’t even get started on that subject. As long as the fear of the company having the ability to monitor is there, I haven’t had too many issues.

RE: Part of me says big deal
By kiloguy on 5/22/2008 2:54:20 PM , Rating: 2
Cobra: Good post. I agree with you 100% that the workplace use of resources cannot be regarded as one's own. I guess that many in this thread have a situation similar to mine, in which the Company has its own INTRA NET that is accessible from without for those needing access. That network topography should not be abused whether in the office or from remote. Monitoring by the company is not a breach of privacy; it is protecting the official use of assets.
ps. chromal: also a good post.

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