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"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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RE: Violated?
By TomZ on 5/22/2008 2:33:07 PM , Rating: 4
I don't really see this as a tech problem. For example, would an employee have an expectation that a desk or locker might be searched by the employer? Probably so. So then why would people expect that something they do on company time using company computers and networks would ever be any different?

In my experience, I think most employees "get it," but there are still some slow learners out there.


RE: Violated?
By Adonlude on 5/22/2008 3:51:29 PM , Rating: 3
Sure I have that expectation but if my employer actually started searching my bags and locker I would be pissed. That would be an accusation or at minimum a sign that I am not trusted. That is not something a company should be subjecting their employees to if the company cares about having dedicated, loyal employees that are part of the "family".


RE: Violated?
By Mitch101 on 5/22/2008 4:45:52 PM , Rating: 2
If the company issued you those bags for business purposes then yes they could and its should not be seen by the employee issued those bags as a violation.

Company provides computers for work related reasons not so you can buy stuff on e-bay and get soccer schedules.


RE: Violated?
By Polynikes on 5/22/2008 6:02:07 PM , Rating: 4
I don't think they should search through that stuff unless they have reason to believe you've been doing something wrong. When they just do it randomly it's insulting.


RE: Violated?
By Mitch101 on 5/23/2008 12:35:41 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. Consider ourselves lucky a few places I am hearing have a ban on cell phones. Not just because of cameras but because of being able to listen in on meetings or other corporate conversations.


"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton














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