Nothing Personal: Employees Still Don't Understand Perils of Computer Use at Work
Mt. Kisco, NY (Nov. 13, 2006) — As we mark e-mail's 25th birthday by exchanging more than 143 billion messages a day, it's not all cause for celebration. A new survey reveals significant misunderstanding among American workers regarding the privacy of their personal e-mail and other computer activities in the workplace. A large percentage do not know that even their most personal messages may be stored electronically and can come back to haunt them or their employer. Just ask former Florida Congressman Mark Foley, whose improper instant messages to Congressional pages made the news last month.
WeComply, a leading provider of business ethics and compliance training, today released the results of a survey entitled Nothing Personal: 2006 Survey of Computer Use at Work. Fielded by Kelton Research, a national polling firm, the survey asked 1,000 U.S. workers whether they thought their personal computer activities at work remained personal or became business records of their employer. The survey covered personal e-mails, instant messages (IMs), web searches and word-processing files created on computers in the workplace.
Among the survey highlights:
- Overall, almost half of all workers did not know that personal e-mail, IMs and unsent files created on work computers may become business records.
- Over 40% of those surveyed did not realize that personal web searches on their work computers could become business records.
- Two-thirds of all workers did not understand that personal IMs to friends could become business records.
- Younger workers (18-34) tended to be less aware than older ones. More than half of the younger group (55%) didn't understand that sending an e-mail to a friend created a business record, compared with 39% of those over 55.
"While we've seen more and more companies issue 'appropriate use' policies and monitor their employees' computer activities, we wanted to find out if employees really understood how the policies applied to them - especially to computer activities they considered personal in nature," said David Simon, WeComply's founder and president. "As we suspected, most employees don't realize that virtually anything they do on their work computers is archived somewhere within the company and could end up in tomorrow's headlines or next year's court records."
Concerns about electronically stored information (ESI) are especially high in view of amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) that are scheduled to take effect December 1, 2006. The amendments establish new procedures for an orderly exchange of ESI early in the litigation process, thus making it all the more likely that inappropriate e-mails, web searches, IMs and other ESI will come to light in pre-trial discovery.
"The better employees understand what winds up as a business record, the less likely they'll be to use their work computers in ways that jeopardize themselves and their employers," Simon said. "But these survey findings show that there's still a long way to go."
WeComply is the leading provider of customizable online compliance training, offering more than 40 programs on such topics as business ethics, workplace discrimination and harassment, information security, privacy, international law, and financial integrity. WeComply's Record Management and E-mail and Internet Use training programs have been revised to reflect the results of this survey and to help companies comply with the new FRCP amendments. For more information, visit www.wecomply.com.