The big question: Has monitoring of staff e-mails gone too far?

The Big Question is an initiative between Computer Weekly and recruitment consultancy PSD. Each week we put the Big Question to top IT professionals to get their take on a current talking point.

62% Yes

38% No

The Big Question is an initiative between Computer Weekly and recruitment consultancy PSD. Each week we put the Big Question to top IT professionals to get their take on a current talking point.

The majority of IT professionals are concerned that firms' technology-enabled monitoring of staff activities has gone too far. But the results of this week's Big Question poll show how divided people are on the issue.

Most respondents made the point that firms were entitled to ensure that resources and time were being used appropriately by staff, but there was a widespread feeling that the balance had shifted too far in recent years.

Many said that monitoring activities were undermining the trust between employers and employees.

"Over-policing of e-mail tends to create mistrust and demotivates the workforce," said one IT engineer.

"Employees need to feel secure and their confidentiality should be respected," said another.

But others said it was the prerogative of a firm to monitor staff e-mails, since the running of the business was paramount, and individuals needed to be aware their responsibility was to the firm at all times.

IT consultant Callum Raymond said, "So long as your e-mail account is not monitored on a regular basis, it is fair to have a system in place that tracks your activities."

Research from security firm Proofpoint has revealed that nearly 50% of UK big businesses could be breaking the law by monitoring e-mails.

More than 60% of businesses regularly audit their staff's outbound e-mail, with 38% employing a "corporate snoop" to read e-mails, the survey of e-mail managers found.

But the survey found that many firms did not have adequate e-mail policies, or else policies were not effectively communicated to staff.

Mark Hughes, Proofpoint's EMEA managing director, said many firms were falling short in the information provided to staff. "It is legitimate for a company to monitor outbound e-mail, but clandestine Big Brother voyeurism is illegal," he said.


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