You've Got Someone Reading Your E-Mail

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You've Got Someone Reading Your E-Mail

By ALEX MINDLIN

Published: June 12, 2006

More than a third of American companies with 1,000 or more workers say they employ people to read through other employees' outbound e-mail. And nearly half of those companies regularly go through outbound e-mail in search of rule-breaking, according to a recent survey of 294 companies done by Forrester Consulting for Proofpoint, a maker of e-mail security products.

37.8 Percentage of large companies with e-mail-monitoring staff

46.9 Percentage of such companies that audit outbound e-mail

Companies look through e-mail for leaked trade secrets, improperly disclosed financial information or illegally released health records. Often, they find them: 32.1 percent of the companies surveyed reported that they had fired someone within the last year for breaking e-mail rules.

Nearly 45 percent of the companies said they used software to search through their employees' messages for offensive words.

Companies are turning their attention to employee e-mail because it is increasingly the subject of lawsuits. About 21 percent of the companies surveyed said they had had their employees' e-mail subpoenaed over the last 12 months, a rate that has doubled since last year.

But Keith Crosley, Proofpoint's director of market development, said companies risked violating workers' privacy. With the advent of mobile devices, he said, "you're kind of always at work, and when you have a situation like that, obviously people are going to use work e-mail for personal things."

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