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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 phattyboombatty on 5/22/2008 6:04:56 PM , Rating: 2
I hope you're not running a legal department anywhere. The customer service centers you mentioned get consent by informing the caller the call may be monitored. Thus, all parties to the call are aware of the recording and its ok. How does telling your employee that their call may be monitored inform the private party on the other end of the call that the call is being recorded?

Your example with email regarding public vs. private network only works for intra-office emails. Every outgoing and incoming email from outside your private network has to travel across public lines, and is analogous to the phone example. I'm not saying that recording emails is illegal. I'm just saying that the argument that "this is my property, I can do what I want with it" doesn't always fly.

RE: Violated?
By Kenenniah on 5/22/2008 8:54:14 PM , Rating: 3
Federal and most state laws (with the exception of 12 states) only require one party of a phone call to be aware of the recording. So it all depends on where the calls are taking place (and yes the strictest law stands). So for a call from Iowa to Kansas, only one party is required, but from Iowa to California all parties are required to be notified, so we are both correct depending.

For the networks, there's a difference between passing through other networks, and actively recording information. With recording phone calls, you have to record both ends, so you are in effect streaming information from an outside network and recording it. With an email, the data has been completely sent to your equipment. It may have gone through other networks to get there, but you don't have to aceess or touch those networks to get the information, Every bit of it at the time you read it is located on your own private segment. I can disconnect my computer from the internet and still read an email. I can't disconnect from a phone line and still record a conversation. I'll grant you it's a very very subtle difference and I have no idea if it really matters or not :P

One way to look at it, is an email is more like the recording of the phone call. It's already been recorded, it was just sent to your servers. So to compare more directly, it would be like someone recorded their end of a phone conversation, and trasferred the wave file to your company's servers.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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