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Old 02-11-2009, 08:16   #1
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Internet use at work -email privacy query

Morning all,

I was informed of something by my better half over the weekend which I wanted to query with the forum brains (not that I don’t believe her or anything….)

The subject of internet use at work must have come up, and my wife reckoned that someone at her work (a big multinational) had been fired because of the content of their online (hotmail/ yahoo) email discussions.

Now, I’m as aware of the usual issues relating to internet usage at work and always clear of dodgy links/ sites etc. Fortunately, my company is a pretty flexible in terms of what you can view, provided you don’t spend a silly amount of time on it (hence my time on the forums to ask this question!)

I would have thought that an email account (albeit online), would be appropriately confidential that any personal emails sent/received on it could not be viewed by the IT overlords at your workplace – am I wrong??

And if I am wrong – exactly how much CAN they view? – I’m starting to get a bit nervous about what I’ve written to other contacts and have been racking my brain to make sure it would pass any QA test!
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:52   #2
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Many companies have a disclaimer when you log in or at the very least a written usage policy which reminds you that you are using a company network and as such it is not private.
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Old 02-11-2009, 09:32   #3
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totally depends on the companies policy.

Some companies may have a policy that says you're not allowed to use webmail, so it not be what was being said in the emails, more that they were using it.
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Old 02-11-2009, 09:38   #4
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I don't know of the legality of monitoring personal email activity but it sounds to me of an invasion of privacy. I agree that monitoring of business email may be necessary.

Thankfully I work for a German company who take privacy issues seriously e.g. no monitoring is allowed by German law unless in very extreme circumstances such as risk to the State etc.
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Old 02-11-2009, 11:19   #5
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Our company policy is pretty hazy. It’s not a massive company, and wording just says to be responsible using the internet, and that ‘privacy cannot be guaranteed’. There’s certainly no ban on webmail.

I just thought that webmail would be more difficult for IT to check over and so always try to use that for personal emails rather than the company mail. Is there really no difference in accessibility to others???
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Old 02-11-2009, 11:25   #6
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There is software out there which can filter webmail services - so these should be used.

I stand by the theory of if a company makes a website available because of crap filtering and people visit said site (Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail etc) then they really can't do anything about it.
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Old 02-11-2009, 12:15   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avid fan View Post
Our company policy is pretty hazy. It’s not a massive company, and wording just says to be responsible using the internet, and that ‘privacy cannot be guaranteed’. There’s certainly no ban on webmail.

I just thought that webmail would be more difficult for IT to check over and so always try to use that for personal emails rather than the company mail. Is there really no difference in accessibility to others???
yes webmail is a lot harder to get in to, but there's such thing as careless users, you know, those who may save all their passwords in their browser and such like.
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Old 02-11-2009, 12:19   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avid fan View Post
Our company policy is pretty hazy. It’s not a massive company, and wording just says to be responsible using the internet, and that ‘privacy cannot be guaranteed’. There’s certainly no ban on webmail.

I just thought that webmail would be more difficult for IT to check over and so always try to use that for personal emails rather than the company mail. Is there really no difference in accessibility to others???
The following assumes that you are permitted to use the work network for reasonable personal use, and are just concerned about your privacy, rather than intending to provide a list of helpful hints to get around your work's IT policy:

Provided you are using SSL (https) and that you have checked the certificate is valid (ie you're not falling foul of a man-in-the-middle attack) then the communication between your machine and your email provider cannot be snooped.

Of course, it is still easy for them to see that you are using those webmail sites by watching to see which IP addresses your computer connects to and others have said, using cached passwords they could gain access to your email.

However, once the data has arrived on your machine, there are all number of technologies they could use to get at the data, from browser plugins, screenscrapers, keyloggers to more simple things like looking at your browser caches or over your shoulder in person or via CCTV.

In short, if you are doing something you don't want your company to know about, then don't do it at work FFS.

Last edited by peg20; 02-11-2009 at 12:19.
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Old 02-11-2009, 12:30   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avid fan View Post
Morning all,
I would have thought that an email account (albeit online), would be appropriately confidential that any personal emails sent/received on it could not be viewed by the IT overlords at your workplace – am I wrong??
I don't think the email provider would intertain them being given access to an email account without strong evidence they suspect a crime has been committed.

However, I would think that as the email is passing through their corporate network if they really wanted to they could reconstruct the messages and they would be entitled to.
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Old 02-11-2009, 13:17   #10
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They're probably viewing this right now wondering what you're worried about hiding!
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Old 02-11-2009, 13:53   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waldopepper View Post
They're probably viewing this right now wondering what you're worried about hiding!
I can honestly say I have nothing to hide...
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Old 02-11-2009, 14:17   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony.S View Post
I don't know of the legality of monitoring personal email activity but it sounds to me of an invasion of privacy. I agree that monitoring of business email may be necessary.

Thankfully I work for a German company who take privacy issues seriously e.g. no monitoring is allowed by German law unless in very extreme circumstances such as risk to the State etc.
You are on a work PC so privacy goes out of the window!

Very few companies would be able to read individual emails with out some very expensive equipment/software which would be akin to key logging or screen grab technology, it will be more of a ban on use of webmail rather than what it is being used for.

Last edited by simonmac; 02-11-2009 at 14:19.
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Old 02-11-2009, 14:24   #13
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Been plenty court cases in the UK and Europe.

When at your work anything you do belongs to your work. Anything typed, scanned, faxed, SMS'd, emailed etc will also be stored too if they have a decent setup.

It is quite literally their business after all.
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