It’s a fact of modern life — many Iowans shoot personal e-mail back and forth to friends, family and co-workers using their work e-mail accounts, but one advisor says it’s a dangerous practice. Wade Arnold, chief technical officer for the marketing and technology firm T-8 Design in Cedar Falls, says if you’re sending that e-mail from a work account, it’s not private — in fact, it’s very public.
Arnold says: "Any e-mail sent from a business address is a business document. Whether or not you send an e-mail to your kids, your wife or an off-topic joke to your friends from college, that e-mail is a business document just as much as it would be if you attached a quote or if you were courting a customer for a sale." He says federal law requires publicly-traded companies, and many others, to archive their e-mail and keep all of them, forever.
"Lawyers now are saying anytime there’s going to be any type of litigation such as, of course, things like sexual harassment, but more commonly intellectual property, or favoritism towards a customer, maybe there’s a kickback, things like that, the number-one place that they’re going to go to is through e-mail," Arnold says. He says work e-mail addresses are essentially a company’s asset and anything you write using that address is considered the company’s view, not just your own. Arnold says to treat every e-mail you send from your work account as if it were a news release.
Arnold says: "You first have to say, ‘This is not my e-mail account. This is the work’s e-mail account.’ Anything I say I should be able to say standing on the front porch with the press in front of me and say, ‘Hey, have you seen this link?’ If it’s something you don’t want on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, you probably shouldn’t be sending it from your company."
If you want to send a personal e-mail, he tells employees to use a Yahoo! or G-mail account during their lunch hours or during breaks — but not on company time and not on the work e-mail account.