Is email snooping within a corporation legal?

By bradthegreat
Jan 31, 2008
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  1. Okay, so I don't even know which forum this thread goes in, but I'll give this one a shot. Please move it if it is in the wrong place...

    So I got an assignment from class today. I have been told by my CEO to look at my immediate boss's emails from the last couple of weeks to see if he has been working as a telemarketer during company hours...this sounds illegal to me, but is there actually a law against looking at other employee's emails?

    If there isn't a law against it, would there be some kind of company policy that would take control? I assume since the CEO told me to do it, there wouldn't be as much fallout, but it just doesn't seem right. Any suggestions?
  2. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 18,353

    No, it's not illegal

    Privacy today, is out the door. Big brother is everywhere.

    No to the company policy also.
    I'm sure the policy, if exists, allows for viewing of emails (and all Internet activity) by any relevant internal party.

    This seems quite legit to me
  3. LookinAround

    LookinAround TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 8,280   +152

    US law does not provide an expectation of privacy if you're using the company's equipment. The company has the right to look at/monitor any communication/data on their equipment. (Something sooo many people don't realize in the US. )

    btw... this includes the company's right to listen to telephone calls as well

    btw2.. software for companies to record internet activity or even just scan email for content and/or key words is quite common

    /* Edit */
    And it's not really an issue of big brother. Big brother is being monitored when you use or own equipment/devices.. not so if you choose to use someone else;s and want to claim they have no right to look at what you're doing with it.
  4. bradthegreat

    bradthegreat Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 141

    wow - I guess there is quite an illusion of security. I figured there would at least be some kind of law against stuff like that, but apparently not. I guess it makes sense tho - it is company time and company equipment.

    okay, just got the second case - let me know what you guys think:

    So I am swapping out an exec's computer and accidentally see a file with a list of people to be terminated that week. At the top is my best friend Kevin. Am I prevented from telling Kevin that he is going to be fired? Would it breach any type of privacy law or anything? Thanks a lot guys, this is making the assignment easier!
  5. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 18,353

    Actually that's a good one.

    It's your friend
    But it's company data

    I think there're may be a policy on that; ie need to know.

    But still not illegal, and again not your fault - it's as if you were told this by doing your duties. Therefore you have an excuse again.
  6. bradthegreat

    bradthegreat Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 141

    hmmm...good point. It still feels like it would be wrong, but I guess again that it wasn't your fault you found out, and he is your friend...
  7. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,026   +221

    It's really hard to share good ethics, corporate responsibility and friendship!

    You need to focus on YOUR priorities. I can't tell you a specific order to place these
    issues, but do you want to stay or be walking our the door hand-in-hand with your firend.
    I've been there(or here) and it's no fun -- moral victories get shallow when you
    need to pay the bills.

    btw: I would ask your CEO for a written memo on the task of
    "searching email contents for various content to be determined from time to time as
    the businsess need arises"

    signed and two copies; 1 for him and 1 for you (lock it up!).
  8. bradthegreat

    bradthegreat Newcomer, in training Topic Starter Posts: 141

    good call joebeard - about the written memo. that is always a good idea for covering your ****. And yeah, it would be tough to weigh the ethics either way. It would be really tough to not tell my friend about getting fired, but on the other hand, it is inevitable anyways, and, like you said, why make it two? Hmm...definitely some food for thought.
  9. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 18,353

    Actually the CEO could email this memo to you, which your friend could accidently see. Not your fault ! Emails aren't very secure !!
  10. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,026   +221

    hint:
    1-Somethings never should be emailed
    2-Somethings need real Blue Ink signatures​
  11. Bobbye

    Bobbye Helper on the Fringe Posts: 16,392   +32

    The corporate big brother is ever-present. I wasn't aware of the keyloggers and other type 'spyware' a large corporation I worked for was using.

    As to checking an associates email- especially the one who is boss above you, I would feel very uncomfortable acting as the corporate spy. I would advise the person of this in writing. I wouldn't do it.

    As for seeing that you friend was going to lose his job-IF what you were doing was a part of "your" job and you did indeed see the list accidentally, you could be risking your job by sharing your knowledge of it.

    I'm with jobeard on this one. Determine what your own ethical code is. There are times when the legality might not be an issue, but the issue could have strong ethical connotations.
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