11 June 2015, Can I look at your emails?

We think information is confidential because it is not publicly available, was sent in circumstances in which it was intended to remain private, and has commercial or other value.   What happens when you use your company email address to send private or confidential material?  Whilst most employers will permit some personal use by employees, does the employer own the emails and information?

Employers can monitor employees’ use of their staff email accounts. There are a number of reasons why an employer might want to do this, including preventing a breach of confidence and trust or negative comments being disseminated.

If emails are received on a staff email account and accessed on company equipment, during business hours, that is probably not private conduct and the employer is entitled to access the information. Emails entering a company’s email system may be regarded as being owned by the company.

The former US Secretary of State went so far as to use a private email account and private email server registered to her home address.

If an employer intends on monitoring staff email accounts it should have an electronic devices and communications policy that outlines what is permitted personal use and when the employer may monitor email/internet usage at work.