July 23, 2002
Time warp news

I work as an email administrator. Today my boss forwarded this link about HP dealing with employee email abuse in Britain and Ireland to our team as an FYI. What's surprising about this is not that a company might take action against employees who "distribute pornography and tasteless jokes" via email, but that it's news that firms are "cracking down" on this sort of thing. I mean, US firms have done this for years - is Europe behind the times, or is this reporter uninformed?

I will say this - Many companies' official email policies are really broad. At my office, I've often said that if a random audit of 100 employees' mailboxes were to be done, you could find cause to fire 95 of them. I wouldn't expect to find much porn - most of us work in open areas, and our web proxies have blocked adult sites for years now - but jokes are routinely passed around, and there's no shortage of other non-business related mail.

Really, the sticking point on most email policies has to do with personal mail. As with personal calls, taking breaks, and general goofing off, some undefined level is acceptable. Go beyond it and you're in trouble. Of course, unless your company is into spyware (and has the time, manpower and budget to actively snoop), you generally have to get caught first. That either means doing something dumb or letting the non-work stuff affect your performance.

In short, everybody does it and everybody knows that everybody does it. Had this occurred in the States, I'd expect that this "crackdown" was the result of things being sufficiently out of hand that a number of people complained about it. Is it really not like that in Europe?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 23, 2002 to Technology, science, and math

I decided a LONG time ago that my personal mail and my work mail would be kept in separate spaces, and never the twain shall meet. If they checked my inbox right now, I'd be clean as a whistle. Doesn't mean I'm not reading scores of personal e-mails from work every day. Just not in a server space they can check. Whee!

Posted by: Amy on July 24, 2002 8:58 AM

The web proxy at my employer blocks, among other things, free email services. I can understand the concern over viruses, etc., but it drives me nuts that I can't even look at my personal email. I've tried some proxy sites, translation sites, and such like, but nothing works for very long. If anyone has any ideas how this could be defeated, I'd be forever in your debt....

Posted by: Jack Cluth on July 24, 2002 2:16 PM