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[not very] private

Jan 20 '14 74 Last Comment
Saint in the City
Jan 20, 14 9:59 pm

Recently had a friend quit a high-paying job over some fairly troubling issues.  Among some pretty awful-sounding descriptions, my friend mentioned that his employer had been reading his personal email.  My friend  sometimes checked his personal email on a work computer -- one way or another the employer gained access.   

My friend never pursued it any further than being highly pi$$ed -- he's already at a new job.

I realize that one's privacy is in the workplace needs to be regarded as non-existent.  Still, the sliminess of an employer reading personal emails between a guy and his wife is indefensible. 

Anyone had this happen to them?

 

jla-x
Jan 20, 14 10:56 pm


No but I'm pretty sure there is a law protecting one from this type of intrusion of privacy.  Email is not the same as a public thing like Facebook.  This seems to cross that line of legal snooping. 


observant
Jan 20, 14 11:37 pm

If a person is reading their e-mail through a site entered with a SSL for sign-in, how could that happen?  Or should it even be happening?  Was his wife sending e-mails to his work e-mail address or using another vehicle?

I worked for a firm I've complained about here where a partner/principal who was an exec, but not even overseeing my jobs, "barked" at me in passing not to make my plan check responses as neat and thorough.  He was a barker.  He was a major prick and curmudgeon, and not even age 40 at the time!  As for the neatness, it was merely an alternation between italicized and normal fonts in my word documents.  As for the thoroughness, another set of review comments from the building official rarely if ever materialized.  So what the fuck was his problem?  Obviously, he had drilled down into the server hierarchy to view the correspondence on my jobs. I felt that the principal to whom I reported could help himself to that stuff, and he did, and never complained to me.  When people resigned, this exec / overseeing principal was often cited as the primary cause.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 21, 14 12:00 am


This is America. Expectation of privacy is delusional. 


quizzical
Jan 21, 14 12:07 am

You may not like it - but, generally speaking, NO information, of any nature, that you place on, or process through, your employer's technology is protected by any 'right of privacy'. This condition is well established in the law and is not likely to change anytime soon.

Never, EVER, use your employer's systems for any personal business or communications that you would not want available to your employer.

My impression is that most employers have much better things to do with their time other than snooping through your personal e-mail. Usually, when this does happen it's because the employer is trying to track down some sort of suspected violation of company policy or the law - even when you may not be suspected of such violation.


citizen
Jan 21, 14 1:00 am

Quizzical's right.  Keep it clean, keep it minimal.

gwharton
Jan 21, 14 4:50 am

Unless you're using strong encryption, email is not private. Do keep that in mind when using it.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Jan 21, 14 8:27 am

I just want to repeat quizzical's point: NO information, of any nature, that you place on, or process through, your employer's technology is protected by any 'right of privacy'

This also includes using your own smart phone if it's on the firm's wireless network.  Even though it's your hardware, the wireless network belongs to the firm.

I have my company's email on my smartphone - not sure what the techincal term is? but it's loaded on the phone in such a way that it is *not* webmail, i.e., I don't have to go through a browser to get to it.  This makes it much easier and faster for me to get my work email while mobile.  The downside is it gives the company the right to remotely wipe my phone clean if they suspect a security breach.  I had to sign off saying I understood this risk.

curtkram
Jan 21, 14 9:31 am

why assume the employer had some sort of justifiable reason or probable cause to search other people's personal communication?  to become an employer, there isn't any sort of test or background check to see if you're a decent human being or even remotely competent.  an employer needs money and they need to know people that can bring in work.  they don't even have to know how to do the work if they have enough money to pay other people to take care of them.

if you work for a living, the law is going to treat you fairly equivalent to a dog.  there are some laws to prevent abuse, and on occasion those laws are enforced.  generally speaking though, if you're employer wants to treat you like a dog because that's how they get their kicks, they can do that.  some people like their dogs, treat them well, and take responsibility for them.  others don't. 

the only way i know of where people who work for a living were able to stand up against their employers abusing them was when they formed unions, and managed to get a few laws passed to protect them from the more egregious abuses.  if you don't want you're friends employer treating them like a dog, then support unions, and support legislation that protects people who work for a living.

jla-x
Jan 21, 14 12:31 pm


Curtkram, I agree. 


jla-x
Jan 21, 14 12:43 pm


There needs to be an interns union or a general architect and designer union.  The abuse of power in this industry is out of control.  A couple years back I applied for a job and the boss of the company required a photo as part of the resume.  Didnt get it, and I later heard from a friend who works there that the boss was saying how he was looking for a "hot woman" employee, and that he was sorting resumes based on a 1-10 hotness factor.  


stone
Jan 21, 14 12:52 pm

curt - while I understand and appreciate (up to a point) the views you express above, you might want to consider that "abuse" can often be a two way street. First of all, employers go to great expense to provide technology in an office to support the company's operations. Second, employers are paying for the time of the people they employ. Third, personal use of an employer's systems almost axiomatically suggests that employees are conducting personal business on company time. 

I'm not sure I understand how an employer reserving the right to access any and all parts of the technology systems it owns constitutes "abuse". If an individual doesn't want personal files, messages, etc. accessible by his/her employer, all that needs to happen is for that information to never reside on the employer's system.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 21, 14 12:54 pm

The Supreme Court is getting ready to bust unions.

LITS4FormZ
Jan 21, 14 1:10 pm

Don't like the rules? Become to boss.

Our field personnel lost their phones so often (most did not even have passwords) that they now required 6 digit pins to a t

curtkram
Jan 21, 14 1:24 pm

perhaps i'm being overly dramatic.  a couple points though;

first, in the broader economic context we're living, with wealth inequality growing at a somewhat alarming rate, reduced opportunity for people to improve the station of life they're born into, the thing miles tried to link, etc., the relationship between employee and employer is somewhat (in my mind) relevant.  there should never be a case where someone is punished or in any other way denigrated for trying to or wanting to work for a living.  giving too much control and power to the discretion of an employer does that.

second, if i reserve the right to abuse my dog, that doesn't mean i'm abusive to my dog.  i don't abuse my dog.  it's ineffective.  the only reason i can think of that i would abuse my dog is if i'm a masochist, or if i'm too stupid to know how to properly care for a dog.  there is no reason to give me the right to abuse my dog.  if i fail as a dog owner because i'm too stupid to reasonably care for my dog, there is nothing wrong with people taking my dog away from me.  if a business owner fails because they're too stupid to take care of their responsibilities, there is nothing wrong with letting them fail and letting them lose their business.  there are probably limitations to my analogy, but whatever.

third, as far as i can tell the realities of modern technology have not really been addressed by employers or employees.  if i have my work email on my phone, it's still my phone.  my company should be paying for my phone and the monthly cost to maintain that phone, since it's become a normal tool of our trade.  but they don't.  i provide my own so i can efficiently do my job and help my employer.  i need a phone anyway to carry out my normal, personal, daily tasks, so i let it fill in for job related tasks as well.  you might not realize this, but phones today are more than just phones.

the fact is, the cloud is there, my email is there, archinect is there, and pretending it all doesn't exist or pretending you live in black and white mayberry isn't going to make it go away.  incompetent legislatures and corrupt courts that try to limit a person's ability to live their life and just work for a living is not a good direction for the country.  it's ineffective.  it should be fixed.

in the OP's friends case, his employer had no ethical or moral right to interfere in personal conversations between him and his wife.  whether he used a company computer or not is irrelevant, the conversation was personal and private.  even if the employer thought (s)he was sniffing for something relevant to his/her company, the idea of intercepting other personal communications is a grotesque invasion of privacy.  it's time legislation caught up.  make the employer get a warrant to view only the specific correspondence they need.  why would anyone be pissed at the government listening in on phone calls, then say it's ok for their employer to do it?  or do you think all communications should be made publicly available to everyone?  what difference would it really make if i was hacking your email instead of your boss?  what rights do you think they have that i don't?

curtkram
Jan 21, 14 1:29 pm

i rambled on too much.  anyway, i'm going to add to it.

no employer owns the internet.  no employer owns any of my email accounts, except the work email they provided me.  no employer owns the private conversations i have with friends or family.  you're saying if an employer owns one of the gates to access those various systems, they should get to control all of them.  that's kind of ridiculous isn't it?

geezertect
Jan 21, 14 1:34 pm

Your employer owns the equipment and internet service that he/she is paying for, as well as your time when you are on the company's dime.  At home, he doesn't.  It really isn't ridiculous.

curtkram
Jan 21, 14 1:50 pm

let's make up some assumptions to personalize the OP's concern.  we'll start with this:

"an employer reading personal emails between a guy and his wife is indefensible."

personal email is something like, let's say, a yahoo account, right?  so this guy may have used his computer at work to send or receive an email on that yahoo account.

you're saying the boss now has a right to view all emails ever sent or received from that yahoo account right?  of course we don't know the specific email the person referred to in the original post that was sent or received from the office, with the internet service payed for by the employer, but i think it's pretty reasonable to assume at some point that guy used his personal email from something not directly related to work.  why are you giving the employer access to the emails sent and received outside of work, possibly even using an internet service provide payed for by someone else?

employees bringing their phones, and sometimes even laptops or tablets, to work blurs the line a lot more, too.

you don't 'own' time any more than you 'own' people.

curtkram
Jan 21, 14 1:56 pm

also,

"Don't like the rules? Become to boss."

there shouldn't be anything wrong with working for a living.  i shouldn't have to become the boss in order to hold on to a basic standard of living.

people shouldn't be punished because they want to work.  that's the problem.  i shouldn't have to sacrifice my rights to privacy or anything else just to hold a job.  it's fucked up that people think that way.

BulgarBlogger
Jan 21, 14 2:13 pm

how many of you are at work RIGHT NOW?

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Jan 21, 14 2:49 pm

curt, I do agree with you, especially about the bigger philosophical question of limits between an employer "owning" my time and how I have a right to be a human first, employee second. 

The big difference for me is between ethics and legality: In my opinion, if I use the firm computer to check my gmail, it would be unethical and immoral for my boss to then get IT to go into that stream of info and read what I've emailed to my husband, or banker, or doctor, or whatever.  Absolutely unethical for them to access it for fun, or out of curiosity. But I'm pretty sure it's legal, even if it is unethical, especially *if* they are concerned you are misusing firm resources aka stealing. And I think it's definitely unethical for me to use firm resources for personal benefit, even, on some level, just to check my gmail. I do it anyway, even though I think it's not really right.

I also think the standard of employees not being reimbursed for personal cell phone usage is a HUGE issue.  In my case, it's more convenient for me to use my cell phone for work-related stuff, and I won't get reimbursed.  But I do have co-workers who have flat out refused to offer the use of their personal cell phones for any work-related use, and I totally support that.

curtkram
Jan 21, 14 3:05 pm

i'm at work right now.  not in an all caps way though.

geezertect
Jan 21, 14 3:29 pm

If an employee is using the company computer to access his own private email account, how would the employer be able to access his emails?  As a practical matter, isn't that an extremely unlikely event, or am I technologically naive?

Donna is right--there is a difference between ethical and legal.  An employer being a voyeur just because the employee sent emails via a company account is NOT right.  And, an employer thinking they have a right to know everything about you that happens on "company time" can certainly be abusive.  If your doctor calls you at work about your test results, does the employer have a moral right to know what was said?  I don't think so.  But let's face it, there is no law against being a jerk.  Bottom line is that in an age when almost everyone has a smart phone or laptop to use, and when gmail accounts are free, you have to have your head examined to use the firm's email address.  You don't walk around your house naked at night with the lights on and the shades open and then complain if a neighbor is looking.  A little common sense is in order.

Saint in the City
Jan 21, 14 3:41 pm

:...If an employee is using the company computer to access his own private email account, how would the employer be able to access his emails?  As a practical matter, isn't that an extremely unlikely event, or am I technologically naive?"

Yes to the latter.

"...you have to have your head examined to use the firm's email address.  You don't walk around your house naked at night with the lights on and the shades open and then complain if a neighbor is looking.  A little common sense is in order."

Per my original post -- personal email account on work computer.

Saint in the City
Jan 21, 14 3:42 pm

Donna's second paragraph from 2:49 seems spot on to me. 

Saint in the City
Jan 21, 14 3:46 pm

"...This is America. Expectation of privacy is delusional..."

Kind of a separate issue....  anyway, there are a lot of good TED talks countering this perception -- as in, there is ultimately no need -- nor is it a particularly good idea -- to throw in the towel on the expectation of privacy just yet.

geezertect
Jan 21, 14 4:36 pm

^^^  Well, if it is possible for the employer to access the private email accounts of employees then the only thing they can do is use their own laptop or smart phone at the Starbuck's across the street.

BTW, the privacy problem works going the other way, too.  We had an employee who hacked into the company's books, payroll records, etc.  Technology is a mixed blessing.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 21, 14 4:51 pm


Saint, you are apparently unaware of how data about you is bought and sold on an open market. As to ethics, what exactly do they have to do with legality? More and more it seems that they are inversely related. Like money and intelligence. 


curtkram
Jan 21, 14 5:04 pm

geezer, what did they do with that information?  alter/destroy it?  hold it ransom?  tell everyone how much other people get paid?  do nothing?

Saint in the City
Jan 21, 14 5:06 pm

"Saint, you are apparently unaware of how data about you is bought and sold on an open market."

What?  They can do that?  

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 21, 14 5:08 pm


Some startup company is going to use medical records to display targeted advertising to hospital patients. 


Volunteer
Jan 21, 14 5:21 pm

After Obamacare gets going advertisers will follow-up with funeral and crematory service ads to the hospital patients.

Saint in the City
Jan 21, 14 5:28 pm

No, I'm just being sarcastic -- I'm aware of the data markets.

Some of the TED talks speakers I found interesting were looking several steps past all that...  in that, the cutting edge isn't discussing that privacy is impossible.   They're discussing that it IS possible, and necessary.

there is no there
Jan 21, 14 5:32 pm

data mining technology could soon prove useful in diagnosing mental disorders. if they are reading your e-mail and your web searches and clicks, what better diagnostic tools do you need? ha!

curtkram
Jan 21, 14 5:55 pm

who defines what a mental disorder is?  how close to middle of the road do you have to be before folks in white coats come to take you away?  that sounds pretty scary.

political dissidents would probably become 'mentally disabled' pretty quick.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Jan 21, 14 6:05 pm

That's a pretty terrifying idea, curt. Eek.

observant
Jan 21, 14 6:39 pm

data mining technology could soon prove useful in diagnosing mental disorders. if they are reading your e-mail and your web searches and clicks, what better diagnostic tools do you need? ha!

Right.  And I'm thinking clicks on architect would be ... what ... a negative indicator?  Mental disorders can spill into others, or coexist, and it's referred to as comorbidity, the same term used for frequently paired illnesses of an organic nature.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 21, 14 6:55 pm


Mental illness is readily identified by sociopathic behavior. Like the behaviors exhibited by most politicians:



Glibness and Superficial Charm



Manipulative and Conning



Grandiose Sense of Self



Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."



Pathological Lying



 



Incapacity for Love



Need for Stimulation



Callousness/Lack of Empathy



Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature



 



Irresponsibility/Unreliability



Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity



Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility



Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 21, 14 7:04 pm


#%*€¥&$@ iPhone


observant
Jan 21, 14 7:06 pm

Mental illness is readily identified by sociopathic behavior. Like the behaviors exhibited by most politicians:

Your spacing is troublesome.  Moving right along:

Glibness and Superficial Charm

- Bill Clinton

Grandiose Sense of Self

- Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney

Callousness/Lack of Empathy

- Mitt Romney, Ann Romney

Infidelity

- Bill Clinton

Sociopathic behavior is not a criteria for all mental illnesses; however, mental illness would cast its broad net to include sociopathic behavior.


curtkram
Jan 21, 14 7:08 pm

clique, and you've misdiagnosed the problem.

observant
Jan 21, 14 7:20 pm

^

Clicks are noises uttered by a physical action or machinery.  Cliques are like, well, fraternities and sororities.

Misdiagnosed which problem?  There are so many that one doesn't know where to start.

Volunteer
Jan 21, 14 9:13 pm

I like the gun-grabbers stance that the mentally ill should not have firearms. Can't argue with that except the Catch 22 will soon be that if you want to have a gun then, ipso facto, you are mentally ill and can't have a gun. Take it to the bank.

Saint in the City
Jan 22, 14 10:16 am

Glibness and Superficial Charm

Manipulative and Conning

Grandiose Sense of Self

Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."

Pathological Lying

Incapacity for Love

Need for Stimulation

Callousness/Lack of Empathy

Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature

Irresponsibility/Unreliability

Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity

Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility

 

Ah, sweet -- hey, so when is this position available?

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 22, 14 10:35 am


All you need are a couple of big corporate sponsors and you're on your way. 


Donna SinkDonna Sink
Jan 22, 14 11:17 am

Volunteer I don't understand your logic. Why would the leap be made that only mentally ill people would want a gun?

This thread has way derailed, but I guess that's common.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 22, 14 1:10 pm

^

Grandiose Sense of Self

Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."

Need for Stimulation

Callousness/Lack of Empathy

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Jan 22, 14 2:06 pm

Miles, who is that directed at?

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 22, 14 2:48 pm


Not who but what. 



Why would the leap be made that only mentally ill people would want a gun?



Clearly not a 1-to-1 but some of the characteristics fit quite nicely. 


Saint in the City
Jan 22, 14 3:21 pm

Grandiose Sense of Self

Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."

Need for Stimulation

Callousness/Lack of Empathy

 

Also fits quite nicely in describing many architects.  Your point?

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 22, 14 4:31 pm


That many architects are sociopaths?


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