Half of UK firms have sacked errant emailers

The survey also found that almost half of the UK's companies conducted investigations into email leaks of confidential or sensitive data in the past year. The figures show UK companies to be more suspicious of and more rigorous in checking employees' use of email than their counterparts in Germany and France.

Research carried out by Forrester on behalf of email security firm Proofpoint found that 44% of UK companies had fired employees in the past year because of violation of email policies, while 78% of them had disciplined workers for the same offence.

It found that 53% of UK companies surveyed regularly audited outbound email content, while 47% have investigated a leak in the last year.

Companies' principal worries about email use are that employees could be breaking financial disclosure or corporate governance rules, could be leaking intellectual property or trade secrets, could be leaking sensitive memos or could be breaching privacy regulations.

"The convenience and ubiquity of email as a business communications tool has exposed enterprises to a wide variety of legal, financial and regulatory risks associated with outbound email," said the report. ""Enterprises continue to express a high level of concern about creating, managing and enforcing outbound messaging policies."

The survey found that, while once firms simply had to monitor emails in order to know what information was leaving the company, now there was an increase in the ways that information could leave a company.

Social networking sites were the location of exposure of confidential or sensitive information for 16% of companies, while 9% experienced the exposure of sensitive information via video or audio files posted on a media sharing site.

Blogs, message boards and web-based email that is not routed through corporate filters are all a source of worry to companies.

Abusing the technologies can be extremely serious. The research uncovered that 11% of publicly-traded companies in Europe had investigated the exposure of material financial information via blogs or message boards.

"The results show that data protection concerns are not confined to the US and that globally, email, webmail, FTP, blogs, message boards, media sharing sites and social networking sites are a source of concern as well as real-world risk for IT professionals working in large enterprises," said the study.