Current Affairs

Work emails and your privacy

Work emails aren’t for your eyes only – so be careful what you write.

By Kevin Milne
Work emails and your privacy

I have a suspicion that my employer is reading my personal emails on my work computer. I realise he paid for the computer, but is he allowed to read my personal emails? I don’t send many personal emails while I am at work – about six a day. Surely that’s not excessive. I work for a large company that provides about 50 staff with desktops and laptops.

You are making a serious mistake if you don’t assume that any email you write on your work computer might be read by the boss. I don’t think there is a specific law about this, but I understand the courts have tended to take the employer’s side when this issue has arisen. Employers should have a valid business purpose for reading any personal emails on work computers. They shouldn’t do so just out of curiosity or any prurient interest. But an employer, for example, who’s concerned that business secrets are being leaked by staff would appear to have the right to go through all your mail to find out if it’s you.

If, in the course of this, you were found to be bad mouthing someone at the top, it would be hard for the boss to forget he or she had seen it. So the advice is clear: don’t write anything on your work computer that would drop you or any of your workmates in it. That includes anything that your bosses might consider poor taste. And if you think the company wouldn’t have time to read through everyone’s emails, there may be a number of names or words that, if used, would alert them to the email. So be nice.

Do you have a consumer question for Kevin? Email, or post to Weekly Consumer, PO Box 90119, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142.

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