|Traffic | Weather | Your account||Movies | Restaurants | Today's events|
E-mailing from work? Guess who's watching
SAN FRANCISCO — If you're a worker who spends a fair amount of time sending e-mails while at work, the evidence is mounting that you should take two breaths before hitting "send."
Almost one-third of companies said they've fired an employee in the last 12 months for violating e-mail policies, and 52 percent of the companies said they have disciplined an employee for violating e-mail rules in the past year, according to a survey of 294 U.S. firms with 1,000 or more workers.
Thirty-eight percent of companies said they employ staff to read or analyze outgoing e-mail messages, and that jumps to 44 percent of companies with 20,000 or more employees, according to the survey conducted by Forrester Consulting for Proofpoint, which makes anti-spam and e-mail monitoring tools for companies. About half of the companies said they regularly audit outbound e-mail content.
"There are legitimate reasons for companies to monitor e-mail," said Keith Crosley, director of market development at Proofpoint, a messaging-security company in Cupertino, Calif.
"There is so much risk associated with e-mail. The companies we're talking about here have records on many thousands of customers," Crosley said.
"You really need to protect that data. E-mail is one of the least secure systems. It's very easy to inadvertently reveal massive amounts of customer data," he said.
The message to workers: "Don't put anything in e-mails that you wouldn't want the whole world to read," Crosley said. "That would be a difficult ideal to live up to," he said, but, absent that, workers should at least abide by their company's policy for acceptable e-mail use.
Of course, you might be forgiven for not knowing your company's e-mail policy.
While 83 percent of companies said they have an acceptable-use e-mail policy in place, just 51 percent said they'd trained workers on the policy in the past 12 months, according to the survey.
"It's likely that your company doesn't perform specific training on those," Crosley said.
When asked about concerns regarding outbound e-mail messages, 71 percent of firms said they're concerned or very concerned about protecting personal identity and financial information.
The same portion is concerned or very concerned about complying with corporate-governance regulations.
About 66 percent of companies are worried about preventing leaks of confidential memos, the same portion pointed to protecting private health-care information, and 66 percent also said they're concerned or very concerned with making sure company trade secrets don't get sent out via e-mail.
Meanwhile, 62 percent of companies pointed to "internal e-mail policy compliance" as a concern, and 54 percent said they were concerned or very concerned with "monitoring for inappropriate content."
"People often key in on people sending porn, people wasting time, but there's a significantly higher level of concern around protecting financial [and preventing other] information from being divulged inappropriately," Crosley said.
"As a manager, I am not as concerned about Bob in accounting doing a little bit of personal e-mail, because our work lives and our home lives are converging," he said.
"People have mobile devices. They're at the office all the time, even when they're away," he said. "An enlightened policy would allow a certain amount of personal e-mail use."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company