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In the roughly 20 years since email became a common business tool, businesses have been remarkably consistent in delivering this message to their employees: Your work email is not your own, and the company has the right to look at it if necessary. In practice, however, this rarely happens; except for legal reasons, it has been fairly rare for companies to look at employee mail, and has even been seen as scandalous in cases where it occurred. Despite the formal assertion that an employee's email is not private, it has usually been treated as such.
In the age of rich, consolidated archives, however, there will be more reason and capability than ever for a company to consider making selective, well considered use of employee email messages. Deep analysis of archives can help provide employees with highly relevant information from other employees' email. The business value of such information mining will be hard to resist. A crude approach is sure to alienate or anger employees, but a more measured approach can yield substantial business value.
In this talk, I will discuss the perils and promise of eroding the de facto walls of privacy around employee email. In particular, I will discuss mechanisms to allow employees to send private messages when appropriate, selectively indicating a need for privacy, as well as mechanisms to govern which employees can access which data.