E-mail Privacy Rights In Business
How far we have come in such a small time. When you think that the personal computer was invented in the early 1980's and by the end of the millennium, several households have two PC's, it is an astonishing growth rate. And, when you consider business, I can look around the office and see that a lot of the cubicles contain more than one PC. It is astonishing to me that such an item has taken control over the information technology arena like personal computers. Consider, however, the items that go along with personal computers: printers; modems; telephone lines for your modem; scanners; the software; online access; and lets not forget, e-mail addresses.
E-mail, or electronic messaging, has taken over the communications world as the preferred method of exchanging information. From the simple, "let's do lunch" messages, to the ability to send a business associate anywhere in the world an e-mail with an attached document that contains 150 megabytes of information, e-mail is quickly replacing the telephone, the U.S. post-office, and even overnight delivery services as primary method of exchanging important data.
With the ability to create and send this instant information, the technology has far outpaced the education of how to use this phenomena, the affects of this technology on society, and how to prevent this method of communication from growing itself out of existence. Consider the following numbers:
· There were about 23 million e-mail users in 1994
· There will be approximately 74 millions e-mail users in the year 2000
· Employees sent approximately 263 billion e-mail messages in 1994
· Employees will send approximately 4 trillion e-mail message in the year 2000
· A 1993 study by MacWorld magazine found that 22% of employers have engaged in
searches of employer computer files, voice mail, electronic mail, or other
· The number of people subject to electronic surveillance at work has increased
from approximately 8 million in 1990 to more than 20 million in 1996.
· Nearly 60% of companies that monitor e-mail or other employee communications
conceal doing so.
· Less than 20% of companies have a written policy on electronic monitoring.
One of the major areas affected by this new technology is corporate America. Not only is it struggling with how to keep pace with the growing need for fast and efficient e-mail, but also the dangers associated with it. Among these dangers is privacy, in particular, what legal rights corporations and employees have in keeping their communications private. This paper will introduce the current legislation in this area, the expectation of privacy an employee should have, any court decisions that provide additional ruling, and what a corporation can do to prevent litigation in these matters.
II. Employees Expectation of Privacy in e-mail
As an e-mail systems manager, I...