Privacy Considerations

Remember that you have little privacy at the client site.

The federal Electronics Communications Privacy Act has been interpreted by the courts to give employers the right to listen in on business calls and to read electronic communications. The employer has full access to anything happening on their property or in their electronic systems. With current security concerns, you should anticipate even less privacy in the workplace as time goes by.

Your emails and instant messages can be read and recorded. Even your individual keystrokes can be recorded to provide a record of what you've written, what sites you've visited, and who you've talked to.

Simply put, your employer owns your emails if you use your employer's time and equipment. Your employer can legally monitor business calls for "quality assurance."

Don't use client time or resources, including a work computer, for personal use. Do not visit non-work-related websites. Don't assume that when you check your personal email that you will be doing so in privacy - even if you're using a third-party site like Yahoo or Hotmail. Don't even assume that using your own electronic device provides you protection. If it's connecting through the employer's servers or wireless network, you again lose your right to privacy.

When writing emails, avoid negative comments about your employer or other professionals. Use discretion. Never divulge client or employer information to unauthorized persons. Never send secret material in an open email. And don't email anyone when you're mad.

Need a reminder? Here are two effective ones:

  • Emails never go away. They live on in the employer's mail server long after you've "deleted" them from your workstation.
  • And emails are legally discoverable documents. They can be used as evidence in legal proceedings -- which means that you could find yourself participating in those proceedings, too.

Want to learn more about how an employer can monitor your actions? Just search for "workplace privacy" in any search engine.

Here's a final tip on email that's applicable anywhere

When writing an email - especially if you're feeling cranky - fill in the To field last. Write your Subject line and message, add any attachments, and get your email ready to send.

Then, when you know the letter says what you want it to say - and nothing more - complete the To field. That way you'll never hit the wrong key and send a half-written or too-angry email by accident.