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Rant ; Where’s our privacy !!!


Now anyone who follows my articles knows I don’t get upset very easily. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a Rant.  

But this has really steamed me up so I thought I would write about it. 

Now for those who don’t know, Australia is a Free country. (As free, if not more so than the U.S or Canada). The new Australian government has decided to introduce new legislation to give employers the right to check any or all emails sent or received by their employees on work email addresses without your knowledge. The excuse, Cyber-Terrorism… Now I’ve got no problem with all the security upgrades worldwide since 9/11 but this is my eyes is going too far. What happened to privacy??? What happened to civil rights??? What happened to freedom of speech??? 

No more are we going to be able to call the boss a ‘wanker’ in inter-office emails. (If you don’t know what ‘wanker’ means hit this link ; . And yes, the picture above is of a young Paul Hogan in character as one of his personas, Leo Wanker). Now, most of us are guilty of saying a bad word or two about the boss to peers in the workplace. Some of this conversation usually spills over into emails.Now, would you send that same email if there was a chance your boss might intercept it? Probably not… 

Don’t get me wrong, some work places need to monitor emails for security purposes. (Law enforcement, security institutions and military installations are just a couple that come to mind). But in your stock standard law firm or accounting company I feel that tyrant type bosses are going to take advantage of this new power. 

An example would be;

(Before the new law)

”Hi Tony,The boss has really been riding me in the last week. If the bastard would start to work on the project at hand more than his bloody golf handycap then life would be a heap easier…

Take CareFred”

(After the new law)

”Dear Mr Anthony J Wright,

Sorry for not replying to your inter office emails for the last week or so. I have several meetings this morning but am totally on top of the situation.

By the way, I heard it around the office that Mr (Insert bosses name here) is a fantastic golfer and could hold his own with the likes of Tiger Woods.

Anyway, work to do…

Yours Sincerely,

Mr Frederick Wrong.”

Ok, I will get off my soapbox now and open up the floor. Do you agree with this type of security upgrade or not? (And is there any such legislation and where else?)(Or am I just way out of line and should just submit to loosing another part of my privacy?) Comment away… 

16 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. As far as I know, this practice has been going on for quite some time now in the US. Seems to me that it has been determined in US Court that employers, who own the email system, have a legal right to check out any email that goes through their system. I’m not agreeing with this myself, but I prefer web mail (Google, Yahoo, etc.) to send personal messages to my family, and speak face to face when possible with my coworkers. Unfortunately, web mail at work seems to act up more than at home, leading me to believe something or someone is messing with that too.

  2. Well Greg,

    Corporate email monitoring has is pretty much the standard here in the States, however, I think “security” has little to do with it. It is par for course that most companies monitor email especially after the Enron / Arther Anderson fiasco from a few years ago.

    Maybe the difference here is that your are saying this is happening “without the employees knowledge”. Most corporate email policies here in America clearly state that corporate email may be monitored, but, once again, this has little to do with security.

  3. Sorry about the formatting of the post but having a few problems with Safari talking to WordPress..

  4. I’ll add that in the US personal blogs verbally insulting a persons employers, to my knowledge, have been the reason that at least one company has fired its employee, once that company found out who wrote the blog. This was not even on a company server. It wouldn’t surprise me if this has happened several times in the resent past.

  5. The current administration in the United States has set civil liberties back 50 years, all in the name of fighting terrorism. It is people like you and our fearless librarians in this country that question such policies and fight endlessly to preserve true freedom. Keep calling in question such policies, you are doing the right thing, and everyones freedoms will be preserved.


  6. It’s a non-event. Read:

    Whole thing has been hyped by the media and dumb journalists to be something it’s not.

    Case closed :)

  7. Great tip, Neil!
    This issue has many facets. Here in Brazil, where terrorism is never an issue (yet), the prevailing argument is that if the company owns the building, the network, the bandwidth, the computer and your paid working hours, your boss has every right to check up on whatever you’re up to with the company’s resources I just mentioned. I think that makes a lot of sense. You should always fight for your rights, but you had better also put yourself in your boss’ shoes for a while if you really want to have a clear view of the issue.
    But there are other issues, like information leak/stealing. Many computers have disabled and forbidden the use of USB ports and thumb drives. They are afraid of what an employee can bring or take home in one of those things. I have a friend who works in a law firm where the IT staff will bend over backwards to prevent any kind of external mail access at all including Web mail, although access to most WWW sites is allowed. They probably don’t want people sending or receiving anything unless it goes through the company’s corporate mail which is monitored, of course. She used to be required to use a dedicated machine in a separate room to access her personal mail. Now that is forbidden too. She has been seriously considering buying a Blackberry just so she can access her personal Web mail! Which brings an interesting question: how fair is it to completely cut your employees’ access to the external world as if they didn’t have a private life? Similarly, many companies don’t even allow workers to have cell phones with cameras because they could arguably photograph information and take it outside.
    You can’t take sides on that kind of issue easily. I completely agree that the boss has the right to take precautions, but I also think that these measures are often too harsh, unfair and ineffective. I bet I could smuggle information out of any of these ultra secure offices if I worked in one of them and IF I really wanted to do it. I bet that happens a lot. But then again, that doesn’t mean the companies should just let employees do whatever the hell they want. It’s a tough issue.
    The only thing I really can’t agree with is the bullshit factor. Terrorism? Come on. Just say “it’s my damn company and my damn computers” and we’ll understand. There is no need to insult our intelligence.

  8. Correction: “Many COMPANIES have disabled and forbidden the use of USB ports and thumb drives.”

  9. Company email monitoring has, as far as I know, always been in place here in Canada, and in many other places around the world. Using corporate email accounts does not entitle you to any privacy, as IT departments have to make sure it’s been used for professional purposes.
    Granted, if I start complaining about the boss to a co-worker, I would hope the email would not be held against me, but corporate emails are meant for professional reasons, not to rant and rave and sign up for the latest porn site. 😉

  10. Don’t know about Australia, but in the U.S., corporations have a direct responsibility for what goes through their email system. For instance, offensive spam can be, and has been, grounds for lawsuits. As another example, a company “allowing” internal offensive emails can be held responsible for them. The U.S.’s “Gimme, Gimme By Litigation” attitude has made this mandatory. It’s got zip to do with Freedom Of Anything, Civil Liberties, or any other buzzwords that people like to chant. According to U.S. law, a corporation is directoly responsible for the content of its email- therefore said company has the right and the responsibility to police it.

    Don’t like it? Too bad. That’s what frivolous lawsuits get you.

    In Australia, I have no idea. I know nothing of the condition of litigation there, but if it’s as bad as it is here, you’ll just have to learn to live with it.

  11. I guess the defining point is that whatever is stored or sent through your company’s email system is considered ‘property’ of the company. I could be wrong but there are some employment/nondisclosure agreements that sometimes state it as such. And I can see how “intellectual property” and “stored on physical company computers” can be broad-brushed to constrain limits of your privacy while in the office.

    If you were to ask me if a company snooping on its employee’s email that is stored on company-owned servers is considered a violation of privacy, I’m not sure I would be inclined to say “yes.” That’s because I know that my privacy and right to privacy are a lot different in the office than my privacy and right to privacy when it comes to my home. I certainly understand how far my privacy goes when it comes to my employer versus when it comes to my bedroom.

    Conversely, I would scream bloody murder if my ISP were to read my email but if my employer were to do the same, I wouldn’t be surprised nor would I be offended. The guideline is that while working at a company, you’re about as much in the public because you are a representative of your firm than in private.

  12. Thankyou all so much for your feedback. I will keep you updated as the political progress continues… but it looks like it might be a done thing…

  13. Thing is – if you call you’re boss a wanker on internal email you’re just asking for someone to forward it to his internal email – which will, of course, be linked to his corporate blackberry.

    If you don’t like your boss then in Australia we generally do one of three things:
    1)Tell him
    2)Get a new job
    3)Chuck a lot of sickies

    You guess which is more common 😛

  14. A question for a legal mind out there on this subject.
    Say, for example I use my own private email account for work purposes (which I do).Whether it be a free account (ie Yahoo) or paid (ie .Mac). All of the hardware (ei BlackBerry and MacBook) belongs to me but the wireless connection is paid by the boss. If I was to send something derogatory about the boss over that account to a work mate can this be used in a legal case for dismissal ? (This is all theory and NOT something I have done…or will do. But would be interested to find out where one stands in this situation)
    Thanks for any help…
    Kindest Regards
    Greg Myers

  15. I say use your Blackberry for that, and stay away from India! 😉

  16. A company email system belongs to the company, not the employee. I believe that has been legally established by lawsuits too. And like was said, if you’re going to say something STOOPID in company email, IMHO you deserve the consequences.

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