Do You Have a Right to Expect Email Privacy at Work

Checking emails while working

One thing that a lot of people don’t realize about email accounts is that they aren’t the only person who can access them. The system’s administrators who maintain the servers that you are using for your email account can look at your mail – unless you encrypt the emails, and if you do that, then you will need to make sure that the recipient can decrypt them, which many people will not be able to do.

While it is unlikely that anyone who runs an office IT setup will use their ability to look at employee email messages for nefarious purposes, the fact is that they can inspect the emails, and their IT policy most likely will include them doing so – not because they want to spy on what people are doing for fun, but because they want to make sure that employees are not using their resources for anything other than work-related communication.

Using email from work to send personal messages is a waste of your company’s bandwidth and server resources, and a waste of your time. In addition, it could put the company’s network at risk of infection by malware. Most offices have strict email policies, and will scan mail for viruses, trojans, and malware. The same cannot be said about the average home user.

A good IT team will have a strict policy regarding the type of communications that they allow because if incoming communications cause problems for other users on the network, this could have a serious impact on their ongoing business.

Another thing that they have to look at is professionalism – if an employee were to bully or harass someone on company time, using a company email account, or they were to send spam messages, then this is something that would reflect very badly on the company.

That’s why email use is so often monitored. Some people think that the monitoring is creepy, or that it is an invasion of privacy – but you only have privacy in private settings; you cannot expect to not be photographed by a random passer-by in a public place (but you can expect that you have privacy in your own home). You cannot expect to be able to use someone else’s resources for private communications – because you don’t own those resources.

The emails you send using your personal email account should be private, but when you are at work you should understand that your email account is only for work-related communication. Anything else is a breach of most standard IT policies, and as such you can expect that you would be monitored (to ensure compliance with such policies) and would be likely to be caught if you went against the rules. The electronic communications privacy act does give some protection, but if you engage in inappropriate behaviour at work it will catch up with you eventually, so don’t take that chance, keep work emails for work only.