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Corporations Face Problems with Employee Emails

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the think-before-you-send-is-a-great-adage dept.

Communications 160

TwistedOne151 writes "Law.com has an article outlining how the casual attitude of many employees toward work e-mails has resulted in some thorny problems for corporate in-house counsel. 'It has now become routine even in civil investigations for computers to be subpoenaed so lawyers can look at e-mails and hard drives. And one thing always leads to another. "We have forensic software that shows multiple levels of deletions. It shows thought processes. We can learn far more than from just a document alone," said [Scott] Sorrels. "E-mails have taken over the world."'"

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160 comments

"E-mails have taken over the world" (5, Funny)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639065)

Well, in that case, I welcome you, our new overlords.

Re:"E-mails have taken over the world" (5, Funny)

Gideon Fubar (833343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639075)

Well, they're be more accountable and easier to trace than the current lot..

Re:"E-mails have taken over the world" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639193)

I would like to take this moment to share with you that Gideon Fubar is indeed a fag!

Re:"E-mails have taken over the world" (1)

Gideon Fubar (833343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639201)

good to know i have fans. ;)

Re:"E-mails have taken over the world" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639335)

Lets do our private reenactment of 2girls1cup again Mr. Fubar.

Re:"E-mails have taken over the world" (2, Interesting)

Zigmun_Barsac (861070) | more than 6 years ago | (#21641321)

"Never complain, never explain and never write anything down." - allegedly Henry Ford

Who's your overlord? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639069)

said [Scott] Sorrels. "E-mails have taken over the world."

Better E-mails than lawyers.

Re:Who's your overlord? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639083)

But...but...if lawyers can subpoena e-mails...and emails control the world....

Re:Who's your overlord? (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640035)

THOUGHT PROCESSES?!?!?

Wait, emails have taken over the world?! (5, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639079)

I thought we just had a slew of articles around the internet telling us that email is dead and it's all about myspace and instant messaging?

Anyway, if you have truly devious intentions, simply use the telephone or speak in person. It works for the president and it has worked for the mafia (at least, it did in GoodFellas).

Re:Wait, emails have taken over the world?! (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639227)

Old people use email.

Old people have jobs in corporations.

The article is about corporate email.

Do the freakin' math.

Slight correction. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639747)

"The article is about corporate email."

The article is about why people are so incredibly concerned that their firm might be exposed to major legal liability and loss of public trust due to unintended disclosure of dirty little secrets via corporate email.

Re:Slight correction. (1)

OzoneLad (899155) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640551)

The article is about why people are so incredibly concerned that their firm might be exposed to major legal liability and loss of public trust due to unintended disclosure of dirty little secrets via corporate email.
If they have dirty little secrets, then maybe they just don't deserve any public trust. It sure would be nice if corporations (well, the people that make them up) worried about actually breaching the public trust rather than worrying about being caught doing so.

Re:Wait, emails have taken over the world?! (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639833)

Old people use email.

What, the article was about Korea?

Re:Wait, emails have taken over the world?! (4, Insightful)

cbart387 (1192883) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640181)

Old people use email.
I guess 23 is the new old then.

I'm surprised all the people that use webmail, even compsci students at my college. I think people would not be so swift to abandon it if they used an email client program. Emails in thunderbird are much quicker then using the mess that is facebook. It'll never rival IM but it's pretty darn close.

Re:Wait, emails have taken over the world?! (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640549)

Old people use email.
When it's the old people who have the money, and it takes email to get it out of them, the smart young people use email too.

Re:Wait, emails have taken over the world?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639437)

Mafia use pizzini, not your fancy telephone stuff!

Re:Wait, emails have taken over the world?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639717)

I've always found that putting the dismembered head of your opponent's favorite mare on his pillow sends a definitive message.

Re:Wait, emails have taken over the world?! (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639759)

I thought we just had a slew of articles around the internet telling us that email is dead and it's all about myspace and instant messaging?


The King is dead! Long live the King!

Re:Wait, emails have taken over the world?! (3, Interesting)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640983)

A maffia boss in Italy was caught in 2006, he used small paper notes with (sloppily) encrypted messages [theregister.co.uk] on it to send out orders. Apparently it worked for a long time, and would still have worked if he had used better encryption.

Can this be done in real time? (0, Offtopic)

mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639113)


"We have forensic software that shows multiple levels of deletions. It shows thought processes. We can learn far more than from just a document alone," said [Scott] Sorrels. "E-mails have taken over the world."

Can this be done in real time?

Every time I try to use a piece of file recovery software these days, the estimated time for scanning will be on the order of 8 or 10 hours, and that's with rather small disks [no more than about 20GB NTFS, with no more than 10's of thousands of files].

So invariably, I just say, "Aw, to heck with it," and shut the thing down after a couple of minutes.

I've heard that some of the big disks [500GB, 1TB, etc] can take hours and hours just to format - so it seems like running file recovery software on them would take literally days at a time.

Which is not to say that it can't be done, but wow - it would have to be something really important to devote that amount of time just to recreating the file nodes [not to mention trying to recreate the file itself after you had recovered all of the deleted nodes].

Re:Can this be done in real time? (1)

Gideon Fubar (833343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639187)

Certainly it can be done in real time.. by your standard everyday keylogger. Of course, installing keyloggers on ALL your employees machines, and having complete access to everything they write does raise some thorny questions.. Not to mention that someone has to actually assess the data.

This really doesn't look like it's going to take corporate email security to a new level.. individual profiling, however, might be a different story.

surprise (5, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639145)

THe one thing that can never really be dealt with in terms of keeping email private is the fact that no matter how much you encrypt, use tor etc. youcan't escape the fact the person at the other end can always make a backup copy. The lesson here? If you really don't want something to get out into the world in one way or another DONT SEND IT.

Re:surprise (2)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639159)

Reminds me of an old CYA saying:

Never email what you can say over the phone
Never say over the phone what you can say in person

Procrastination (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639401)

Never email what you can say over the phone
Never say over the phone what you can say in person
The preferred mode of communication in the modern world is E-mail, the two modes of communication you suggested are actually considered rude these days. I fully understand people's right to have a paper or E-mail trail to cover their ass, but it still gives me a kick to break the unwritten rule that all communication must be by E-mail'. People get so deliciously annoyed because they know they can't go and justify their objections to direct contact, to their bosses, without admitting that most of their insistence on E-mail only communication is mostly just an excuse to make it easier to procrastinate.

Re:Procrastination (2, Funny)

Mantaar (1139339) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639815)

Meh. I think the number one procrastination-trigger around IT-companies is still /. and not e-mails.

In fact, companies lose hundreds of manhours per day to this site...

... which they then invest in adverts here on /.

Wait, I think I got an error in my logic there...

Re:Procrastination (2, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639857)

Meh. I think the number one procrastination-trigger around IT-companies is still /. and not e-mails.
That's why I have a script that dumps /. stories in my email.
"Look, I'm working ! It's email !"

Re:Procrastination (1)

strcpy(NULL,... (1089693) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640093)

I agree with you to a degree but this works both ways. It gives free time to everyone, procrastinators and people who actually do work. Why, I do get annoyed when I'm in the middle of a coding frenzy and somebody calls me to ask a stupid question. Sending e-mail is being kind and respecting your peers' time management. The wrong kind of people will abuse your kindness. Abusing everyone is not a solution, instead you simply don't hire abusive people.

Re:Procrastination (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640247)

I fully understand people's right to have a paper or E-mail trail to cover their ass, but it still gives me a kick to break the unwritten rule that all communication must be by E-mail'.

Email has the advantage over paper of being time stamped and easily searchable.

People get so deliciously annoyed because they know they can't go and justify their objections to direct contact, to their bosses, without admitting that most of their insistence on E-mail only communication is mostly just an excuse to make it easier to procrastinate.

Other than it being an interruption to the work they are doing.

Re:Procrastination (1)

the_rev_matt (239420) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640457)

I do configuration management. For years (and possibly decades before I ever came on the scene) it was pretty routine for code to be written, 'tested', and put in production with no paper trail of any sort. We would constantly be pounded on by various business groups for broken code making it to production and the defense of "Well, you told us it passed your test and was OK for production" was worthless because they'd simply deny it.

Maybe you're just lucky and haven't worked in a business environment where CYA is more important than anything else. I've been thrown under the bus, and seen other IT pros thrown enough that I don't trust any other business group (including other IT groups, like Support and DB) at all and won't do anything if it's not in writing.

Re:Procrastination (1)

C_L_Lk (1049846) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640931)

I don't understand how email can effectively "CYA" - every time I have tried to use email to justify something the other party said "and you know how easily email can be faked don't you?". Email is still not nearly as effective at CYA as a voicemail stored in your saved voicemails box. Much harder to fake the voice of your opposition.

Re:surprise (1)

sowth (748135) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639503)

Never say in person what you can slurp into their head with your mind control device. Get your tinfoil hats on friends, it's a comin'!!!

Re:surprise (2, Funny)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640023)

Ok, maybe we don't need to go that far, but how about equipping offices with the cone of silence [wikipedia.org]

third option... (1)

misanthrope101 (253915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21641073)

shut the hell up! I always find it weird that people talk so much about the things they aren't supposed to be doing. Yes, you have to be on the same page. But if you and I already know we're doing that thing at that place next week or so, do we need to explicitly say that in a conversation right now?

I've never been involved in crime per se, but I've done stuff I didn't want broadcast (to my parents, employer, then-wife, etc) and the most galling truth is that people can't keep their mouths shut about things they don't really need to talk about.

Re:surprise (1)

ajs (35943) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639295)

Actually, if you read the article, the issue of revealing more than you meant to is only half of the scope of the problem. There's also the fact that email isn't seen as formal communication, which means that you can typically find email that's anything but "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," and yet it's entered into court records as evidence as if it were.

I think the real problem that we have is that we view email as if it were written communication after the fact, but when we're writing it, most of us think of it roughly the same way that we view casual conversation.

Re:surprise (3, Insightful)

ZombieRoboNinja (905329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639351)

I hear this sort of advice on Slashdot a lot. "If you don't take [insert privacy procedure here], you're ASKING to get caught!" "Don't say anything over email you wouldn't shout in a crowded room!" And so on.

It's kind of dispiriting to me that so many people consider this an acceptable status quo. That you're not allowed to use the Internet, the DOMINANT new form of communication, the one that was supposed to "free" us somehow, without the expectation that everyone from Big Brother to your kid sister is watching over your shoulder.

Re:surprise (4, Insightful)

Hebbinator (1001954) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639459)

I think you missed the point-

The "take privacy procedure" and "dont email anything you dont want to get in trouble for" advice in this case is not being applied to the general public - its for emails at WORK.

The internet was not made so you could say things that make you liable at your job and get away with it. Read the article - it effectively equates interoffice emails to official business. You are "allowed" to use the internet, and you can use it to communicate freely and easily; however, you can neither use company email anonymously nor without consequence, because it creates a permanent record.

I think that its reasonable to say "dont write anything in a COMPANY email that could get you fired/ be used in a lawsuit" just like you wouldnt write those kinds of things in an office-wide memo. Your work email is not private, it belongs to the company, which makes you and the company both responsible for it.

Re:surprise (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639527)

Well, it all boils down to the "don't tell secrets to people who can't keep a secret". And also : "People who are not good at IT don't know how to hide things from a court of law". So don't do unlawful things with them.

Re:surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639621)

If it can be communicated, it can be archived. If it can be archived it is no longer 100% secure. The only way that information can remain 100% secret is not to send it in the first place. Is it fair? no. is it reality? certainly. can that ever be remedied? unless you find a way to somehow communicate a message to a recipient without it being possible to ever archive it then no. That however is highly unlikely as if the recipient can understand any part of the message, it can in principle be archived. sad but true

Re:surprise (3, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639781)

This message will self destruct in 5 seconds. And will neuralyse you. Don't know why we bothered to send it.

Encryption serves a slightly different purpose (1)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639391)

Encryption is more about making it impossible (or at least computationally expensive) to scan your email for 'flagged' stuff, and making it hard for people to accidentally forward confidential information. For example, if I forward a 'Company Confidential' encrypted email to someone outside of the company, they cannot get a decryption license because my company's AD doesn't recognize them, so it prevents me from shooting myself in the foot and brining my company down with me.

Now having said that, if there is a court case as a result of which a subpoena has been issued on my computer/email, it's quite feasible that my company can also be ordered to hand over the decryption keys. So encryption (at least for corporate/personal email) isn't meant to keep secret stuff irrevocably secret. It's merely intended to be protection against leaks and malicious attackers (but not the law). So if you ever have an email that starts with 'we should probably discuss this over the phone but...', well, do it over the phone.

Re:Encryption serves a slightly different purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639707)

What software do you use to encrypt? Is this something that can be built in to Exchange?

That's only half the story (3, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639585)

Now I didn't RTFA, but even the summary seems to say a bit more. For a start, that they can look through deleted drafts on your hard drive and see what the email looked like before you actually edited and sent it. Or even if you don't send it at all.

Plus, screw email, we've already seen this kind of thing happen with edited Word documents, Excel files, or PDFs. Stuff that was never actually sent or published in any way is dug out of the document and used against you.

E.g., I remember a somewhat recent story on The Register where a politician was under fire over a donation she originally said she knew nothing about, but a some looking through the document history later, it looked like she or maybe her husband had a note in the document at some point to check if that's ok.

And now I'm all for accountability in politics, but there's nothing to say that it can't apply to your joke mailing list just the same.

E.g., basically, if your client sues your company about bad support, any emails where you told a coleague that that client is an asshat and shouldn't be taken seriously, can get dug out and used against you. That much was probably clear to you too. But here's the more important part: even if you _didn't_ actually send that email, if at some point you saved a draft, that too can be dug out and used as hint about your thought processes.

So it seems to me like the danger is even more insidious. Even if you think thrice before thinking an email, well, computers got us trained that all sort of transient information can be stored there for later. Even stuff you never intended to send, or notes to self for later, or whatever. Even trivial stuff that people used to just hold in their head, is now somewhere on the computer because it's easy to do so. And stuff that people would first roll around in their head before writing on paper, now gets written anyway and edited later, because it's easy to do so.

And then used as some kind of proof of how your train of thought went. Which was a rather private thing before.

Worse yet, it's now all in one place. So even if previously you'd keep your private thoughts in a diary, chances are it wouldn't get shown in court unless your character makes any difference (e.g., if you pleaded entrapment.) Or they might want to see your letters to your accountant, but not your letters to your mistress. Nowadays that hard drive is one big pot with _everything_. (Again, even transient stuff you deleted long ago and forgot that it was ever on that computer.) Once you got ordered to hand it over, someone _will_ poke his/her nose through everything on it. From business stuff, to your reminders in Outlook to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, to joke lists you're on, to God knows what else.

Sure, most of it probably won't be allowed in court or even presented. But you never know what might anyway. E.g., if you were hit with a sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuit, your porn browsing history or subscription to some dumb blondes jokes list might be interesting after all.

At any rate, _someone_ out there might end up knowing more about you than you thought possible. Even if you think twice before hitting the Send button.

Re:That's only half the story (1)

Wuul (1185089) | more than 6 years ago | (#21641123)

One of my friends at my last company was caught out this way when attending the tribunal of an employee who tried to claim unfair dismissal. He had to stand there in court, in front of his boss when the lawyer read out one of his emails: "Don't trust the f**king management team, they're all a bunch of lying yellow-bellied c**ts, particularly X". "X" was his boss who was also attending the tribunal. He never lived it down, thankfully his boss saw the funny side of it.

What worries me is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21640097)

Why is it seen as bad that there's evidence of what happened internally by email? Subpoena'd computers only happen when there's some evidence of wrongdoing to begin with, so unless you know or suspect your company undertakes "black ops", you shouldn't mind that there are emails around documenting the right and proper execution of your employees duties.

If there had been no email, would Microsoft not have been set on "knifing the baby" with Netscape?

If there had been no email, would HP not have been tapping their employees?

etc.

Unlike individuals who HAVE a private life, corporations exist because we as a society want them to and they only have a public life. So saying if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear IS CORRECT. They HAVE no private life and all that they do should at least be known in principle by the owners (shareholders). Real people have a private life and even their wife/husband/other should have no more right to this privacy because they belong only to themselves.

Re:surprise (1)

module0000 (882745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640673)

Ugh, too true. All the solutions that come to mind for this problem...like publishing encrypted docs that can't be downloaded...blah blah blah...too much work to expect someone else to comply with. It's depressing just trying to think up a solution, wish we had one.

A few rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639163)

My company owns my email like they own the oxygen I breath while I am working. In other words- they don't.

You do not become a street whore simply by agreeing to work for someone. Companies don't understand this. If allowed, they would claim every last cell of your body as their property.

Re:A few rights (3, Insightful)

MLease (652529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639409)

My company owns my email like they own the oxygen I breath while I am working. In other words- they don't.

You do not become a street whore simply by agreeing to work for someone. Companies don't understand this. If allowed, they would claim every last cell of your body as their property.


While I agree with the second paragraph, I take issue with the first. If you are using company email servers and equipment, they do own the email. You don't get a free ride just because you work for the company. Everything you do on their systems has to follow their acceptable use policy, if they have one.

-Mike

Re:A few rights (1)

davetd02 (212006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639449)

To be more precise, the problem is that the company you work for wants to read your email. The problem reference in TFA is that somebody else wants to read your email. The usual scenario is that somebody is suing the company you work for and has demanded all the company's email as part of discovery; your employer is going to fight hard to stop your email from being disclosed, but the other side might still get it.

So it's not a Big Brother problem in the sense that your own boss is watching you, it's a Big Uncle problem in that some plaintiff some number of years down the road gets to read all of the company's email as part of their lawsuit. Then they might take something you say casually in email--"man, big party last night, I'll be Jimbo's out of it today"--and use it as proof that Jimbo was acting negligently the next day.

Your privacy in the emails you send gets lost somewhere along the way. In theory, only the lawyers see the emails, but we all know that every single Enron email got posted to the Internet, which included a lot of personal stuff that has nothing to do with the sins of the bigwigs there.

Re:A few rights (1)

davetd02 (212006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639457)

Insert "not" in the first sentence, to read:

To be more precise, the problem is not that the company you work for wants to read your email.

A tag broke, I apologize for not hitting "preview."

Re:A few rights (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640137)

My company owns my email like they own the oxygen I breath while I am working. In other words- they don't.
If you are using company email servers and equipment, they do own the email. You don't get a free ride just because you work for the company. Everything you do on their systems has to follow their acceptable use policy, if they have one.

Not to mention the fact that the air you breath also comes from their AC units.

Re:A few rights (1)

ladybugfi (110420) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640339)

>If you are using company email servers and equipment, they do own the email.

This is much dependent on your location and may be quite true in the US. However, there are quite civilized countries in the world where this is not true. For example, in Finland, your e-mail box on the corporate servers is protected by privacy laws to be your personal area.

In practice this means that if anyone else wants to access your e-mail, you must be asked consent. If you get hit by a car and end up comatose and thus incapable of giving consent, there must be a clear policy in the organization who can give an order to open your e-mail. If you happen to recover from your coma and return to work, a log of who opened your e-mail and why and what was done, has to be given to you.

The reason for this restrictive ruling is simple. Even if the organization has forbidden you from using the company e-mail for personal matters, nobody can actually prevent your buddies sending you personal e-mail to the company e-mail address. This theoretical possibility of personal contents taints your e-mail box as private area in the Finnish system. I know Finland is pretty unique in this view and is causing major problems when global organizations must navigate the global legal jungle.

Re:A few rights (1)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639427)

Companies don't understand this.
Neither does the law ;)

Emails you send and receive using your work email account are your company's property by law.

Re:A few rights (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639569)

Of course it is, after all, it's "on a computer", so it has different rules than all of the other forms of correspondence that came before it.

Re:A few rights (1)

davetd02 (212006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639867)

Not really -- if you used a typewriter a physical letter on company letterhead and sent it inter-office then it'd be just as discoverable in litigation as an email. The question here isn't who "owns" the document, it's whether a party to litigation can get access to it. Your employer is likely going to try to protect your privacy by preventing the document from being discovered.

It's not a question of ownership at all, it's a question of access and the discovery process in litigation. The whole point of discovery is that Party A gets to go through Party B's files. For the purposes of discovery, it doesn't matter much who owns the contents of Party B's files, it just matters that Party B is holding them right now and they might (emphasis on "might") contain something relevant to the litigation.

You can argue until you're blue in the face about whether that's a good or bad arrangement, but it's a long-standing part of our civil litigation system. Plaintiffs who have been wronged think it's important to find the "smoking gun" email in company records, and there's no way to do that without going through all of the files. Companies often think that plaintiffs are just going on a "fishing expedition" by searching through documents until they find something that looks incriminating when taken out of context. And employees feel like their privacy is being violated when a third-party gets to read their email. There are a lot of moving parts here.

Re:A few rights (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639913)

Emails you send and receive using your work email account are your company's property by law.
Precision : true in the US, not necessarily elsewhere.

Re:A few rights (3, Funny)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639659)

if you farted (break wind) at work, your employer would own the chemical formula. You can bet that if farts had useful chemical properties, you'd be plumbed in the moment you arrived at work!

Re:A few rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639729)

>ou can bet that if farts had useful chemical properties, you'd be plumbed in the moment you arrived at work!

More likely you would never go to work and just fart around at home all day.

Re:A few rights (1)

laejoh (648921) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639773)

I work at the GNAA you insensitive clod!

Re:A few rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21640299)

if you farted (break wind) at work, your employer would own the chemical formula.

In the US they'd have to report you to the DHS otherwise they could be in big trouble.

You can bet that if farts had useful chemical properties, you'd be plumbed in the moment you arrived at work!

Or the dress code would include "Thunderpants".

Aww, poor corporations. (5, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639181)

Shall I shed a tear because you have more trouble hiding things from the public?

Re:Aww, poor corporations. (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639195)

Precisely. Corporations were invented to serve the public, not the other way around.

That said, this does raise important privacy issues for individuals. Nothing that GPG + secure deletion can't solve though, if anyone could make a decent email client that took the donkey work out of using GPG.

Hiding the truth (1)

TheSciBoy (1050166) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639249)

My reaction as well, so corpoprations now have a new problem: they can no longer hide their illegal practices from the legal system. Shock! Horror! What injustice!

Am I the stupid one here or is this in fact a good thing for corporations? Maybe now corrupt practices will become so dangerous that the people that remain employed might actually be the honest people (gasp).

You are wrong about one thing though, corporations were never invented to serve the public, they have no other purpose than to make money for their owners (which in a lot of cases are stock holders). That's it. They can have statutes and whatnot that say that they should give back to the community and serve the countries they work in or whatever but that's just dressing on top of the one basic tenet: make money for your owners.

I say, when big companies break the law, people should go to jail, preferably the responsible people, so going through e-mails to find out who instigated what and why is a Good Thing(TM).

Re:Hiding the truth (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639299)

Yeah, makes me wonder how many cases of "oops we broke the law" have been exposed by email trails. If the matter is handled well, and this can be shown to the court, the person suing may well get less money than if there had not been an email trail and the court/jury had to just assume the worst. Of course, in a perfect world, it wouldn't be possible to accidentally break the law.. but we live in a society where most everyone has broken one law or another.

Re:Hiding the truth (1)

coolGuyZak (844482) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639373)

You are wrong about one thing though, corporations were never invented to serve the public, they have no other purpose than to make money for their owners (which in a lot of cases are stock holders). That's it. They can have statutes and whatnot that say that they should give back to the community and serve the countries they work in or whatever but that's just dressing on top of the one basic tenet: make money for your owners.

Incorrect, sir. Exhibit A: The not-for-profit corporation [wikipedia.org] . Such corporations include the EFF, FSF, OSI, and SourceForge among many others.

I stand corrected (1)

TheSciBoy (1050166) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639411)

You are correct in that there is a special case. I stand corrected. However, this hardly nullifies the rest of my argument, but thank you for pointing this out. I hadn't thought of that.

Re:Hiding the truth (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640065)

Except that SourceForge is not a non-profit corporation.

Re:Aww, poor corporations. (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640327)

Nothing that GPG + secure deletion can't solve though, if anyone could make a decent email client that took the donkey work out of using GPG.
That would be Mailcrypt plus whatever your favorite emacs lisp mail program is, available for well over a decade now and as transparent as it's going to get. When I was still actively following the cypherpunks mailing list, I participated in a public test of a fully encrypted mailing list managed by a special version of majordomo. Gnus 5 & Mailcrypt handled it like a champ.

Re:Aww, poor corporations. (1)

Martian_Kyo (1161137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639289)

my thoughts exactly...this is only a problem because the way they do business. I know the world isn't simple black and white, but some companies use that as an excuse to do...just about anything.

I say these employee mails, might be more of solution then a problem.

Damn the man. Save the empire

Re:Aww, poor corporations. (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640589)

No, the fact that very soon YOU can't hide anything from the public.

Lawyer's advice: be two faced (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639213)

If it's off the record, don't write it. Pick up the phone or better yet, walk over. Don't hit the send button in the heat of anger.
Or here's an idea.. don't be a backstabbing two faced liar. Office politics is one of the many reasons why I am happy to work from home more often than not. If you're getting angry about someone go have it out with them. If you're getting all steamed up about decisions made by others, remember your place, get over it, or stop being so serious - it's just a job.

My personal favorite is the few times I've had to voice concern over the possible legal implications of a particular action. I've had people IM or call me instead of replying to emails because they don't want to be "on the record". To which I have said in the past: "oh, don't you know the IM is logged?" or "You know, if you don't reply to my email and clear this up than all that will be 'on the record' is my concerns and none of your explanations."

Of course, there are people who think its okay to break the law, just so long as no-one finds out about it. To those people I don't send email - I send it direct to the CEO.

Re:Lawyer's advice: be two faced (4, Funny)

Riktov (632) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639337)

Of course, there are people who think its okay to break the law, just so long as no-one finds out about it. To those people I don't send email - I send it direct to the CEO.

In most companies such people typically are the CEO.

Re:Lawyer's advice: be two faced (1)

misanthrope101 (253915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21641153)

Yep, and they got that way by being the most comfortable with hedging the line, and the most skilled at getting away with stuff. Great sociopaths make great CEOs--it's just that their kink is money, which is a fixation society tends to admire rather than censure. I don't think the public was all that furious at even the Enron guys--the closer the stink got to the Bush administration, the more people dismissed it as "political," like Whitewater.

Re:Lawyer's advice: be two faced (1)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639705)

In a previous job I was a s/w developer, and I had a particularly troublesome boss. The sort who would say "let me know if any problems at all arise" and then at reviews would say "you kept telling me all the problems that came up", or "I want to hear solutions not problems". Anyway, he had a habit of telling people by phone to do things which were against procedures if it would help up meet deadlines, saying that we didn't have to be so rigid; if things went wrong he'd immediately blame the developers.

One day he told me to go ahead with a software upgrade which hadn't been approved by the approved chain of managemen and told me he would give business approval. So I went out the standard system upgrade notification stating that X had given his approval on behalf of the business. He rang me to say why had I quoted him thus, I responded that's what he'd said, and he told me that I shouldn't quote him like that!

Anyway, my point is that if someone asks you, off the record, to do something that will only come to be your problem, put it on the record. Something as simple as an email to confirm that they have requested so and so. This is also good practise if, say, you have to ring the bank with some issue of policy or a dispute and they tell you something which you think might be rescinded later - write and say "in according with telephone conversation on Xth of $Month you told me blah blah and this means I shall ...." - and ensure you keep signed and dated copies... months later if they change their mind you can point to the letter and say that since they didn't countermand it, the contract as offered in the letter stands.

Article reads like a 'cry wolf' (3, Interesting)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639257)

If you read the article, it talks about the thorny problems that legal people have with e-mail. The following absolutely shocking examples are given:
  • catty comments or frankly inappropriate language
  • They call people names
  • They make inappropriate comments
  • "can you believe that [expletive] is complaining about this?"
  • "I can't believe she's pregnant at such an inconvenient time at work."
I was like Oh My God, can you imagine the billions and billions of dollars that must be pumped into lawsuits regarding these comments?

Nope, me neither.

Re:Article reads like a 'cry wolf' (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639333)

You are kidding right? Everyone who gets dismissed from a reasonably high paying job in the USA is required, by their insurance company, to file a grievance. That's how the "income protection" scam works. From the customer's point of view you're just paying a premium to ensure you'll be able to meet your mortgage repayments should you lose your job. From the insurers point of view you're paying for your legal fees in advance so they can reclaim your future mortgage repayments from your employer.

Each of those five things you mentioned are absolutely gold for an unfair dismissal lawsuit. All they have to do is show the slightest amount of impropriety in the workplace and they'll win.

Which reminds me, I really should go get some income insurance. :)

Re:Article reads like a 'cry wolf' (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21639355)

"I can't believe she's pregnant at such an inconvenient time at work."

Seems like a perfectly reasonable comment to me.

You're missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21641039)

Any one of the examples listed would potentially be relevant in a matter involving employment law. Google "Zubulake" for an idea of the kind of numbers that might be involved. Hell, Google "electronic discovery" and "Morgan Stanley". Electronic Discovery is big business, and it's big business for a reason. In-house Counsel are rightly shitting themselves about how employees use email.

Simple Solution (0)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639381)

You know, if the saying is good enough for taking away the public's privacy and civil liberties, it's surely good enough to apply to corporations:

If you aren't doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to hide.

If companies would just STOP COMMITTING CRIMES, it wouldn't matter that all their e-mails are on disk.

Are we supposed to feel bad that e-mail is allowing companies to be caught red handed, and forcing them to answer for their crimes?

Re:Simple Solution (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639471)

If you aren't doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to hide.
I couldent disagree more.
~Dan

Re:Simple Solution (1)

L.Bob.Rife (844620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639485)

Two points...

First, there are so many obscure laws, sometimes it all boils down to a simple case of willpower. If some government official has a hard-on against you or your company, they will find SOMETHING they can charge you with. There are various laws per state (especially California), that a company could easily overlook without a massive legal department looking into all possiblities. And frankly that is beyond the scope and financial ability of most companies. At my own company, we spend a substantial amount towards legal fees to try to keep up with various state laws as they apply to our business, and stay compliant, but it simply isn't possible to be 100% legal, 100% of the time.

Second, the notion that "only wrongdoers have something to hide" is on the slippery slope of fascism. Privacy has value to both private citizens, and companies. While I don't think companies should have the same legal and privacy rights as people, I do feel that some level of privacy and expectation of privacy fosters business growth and is a useful thing.

Re:Simple Solution (2, Insightful)

Damocles the Elder (1133333) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639743)

If you aren't doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to hide.

The problem with this is that you're saying everyone with access to these records is trustworthy. Which they aren't. The same argument and reply goes to ISPs logging emails and the government wiretapping without a warrant.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640109)

If you aren't doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to hide.
I believe that we covered this excuse already [slashdot.org] .

Re:Simple Solution (5, Interesting)

Cutterman (789191) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640125)

Cardinal Richelieu said, "Give me six lines written by the most honest man, and I will find something in them to hang him."

As true now as it was then.

Not really something else has. (1)

Simple-Simmian (710342) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639465)

"'"E-mails have taken over the world."'" No god damned Lawyers have.

Compare/contrast the corporate and public arenas (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639695)

If a government wanted to stop people sending embarrasing e-mails (Hey, they are using OUR telecoms infrastructure!) then you would call them tyrannical. But hey, if a government ran eveyr aspect of life on its territory through an autocratic, undemocratic heiracrhy you would probably cry foul too. Apparantly theres two sets of rules.

And before you inevitably say that people are free to leave a corporation - the fact is that in a world of massive debt and no safety net, your only other option is jumping to another, identically evil environment.

accountability (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639703)

I know why they hate email so much, because it's a verifible record of their dealings.

I had clients back in the day that never wanted to use email, and i couldn't work out why until i figured out they were saying one thing in phone conferences and changing their tune down the track to suit themselves, and they couldn't do that when i had our conversations via email.

Solution?: Use DRAM SSD for email storage (4, Insightful)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639751)

What about the option of using an (albeit more expensive) (Volatile) DRAM-based SSD for your email servers?
If *someone* subpoenas it, kindly provide it (unplugged) with the any passwords and a full set of encryption keys...
(Assuming there are not already laws prohibiting a corporation from using a faster (700-1400MB/s @ 3s), more reliable (protected with both ECC and RAID), higher I/O preforming (3 million random IOPS), volatile DRAM SSD array for their email storage?)
"Here is my untouched email server storage device all boxed up and sealed as required per your subpoena order..."

504GB of DRAM would make a *nice* email storage device... (Violin 1010) http://www.violin-memory.com/products/violin1010.html [violin-memory.com]

Re:Solution?: Use DRAM SSD for email storage (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639931)

Seems like an elegant (if somewhat expensive) solution for the problem in the more risky cases :)

Re:Solution?: Use DRAM SSD for email storage (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640157)

That would work in the short term, but eventually the law would respond, most likely by banning SSDs for such uses. Of course, this assumes that the politicians aren't already in bed with these same corporations, which we all know to inevitably be true, so I could be wrong.

Re:Solution?: Use DRAM SSD for email storage (2, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640311)

Don't be ridiculous. You subpoena *information*, not hardware. You present them with a hard drive that's been wiped of its data, even if you wiped it merely by unplugging it, and you've erased subpoenaed data, and you are in a WHOLE lot of trouble, including, quite possibly, criminal prosecution and jail time.

Chris Mattern

Wouldn't work, and you'd be in deep trouble (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640315)

You are not asked for the hardware, you are asked for the information.

That means that you are to provide a non-volatile copy. If you try to pull this stunt you're IMHO most likely ending up with a charge for destroying evidence, and you can ask "Oops I shredded Enron docs again" Anderson what happens next..

In the UK you can make their life a bit more difficult by storing part of your recovery (backdoor) crypto key abroad. It's not unreasonable to be slow at that point because you have to recover the key part first (plausible defence for delay), but don't expect to STOP anyone gaining access. The best you can hope for is delay.

corporations are the problem (1)

m0llusk (789903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21639893)

The closed and criminal nature of most corporations is the core problem. If they were open about what value they were providing and how then there would be no problem with remarks about corporate processes and performance being written in e-mail or any other medium prone to sharing and archival.

Catch-22 of retention (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21640197)

I once had a boss (CFO) who had discovered the miracle of renention policies. One of the board memebers was touting his company's 90-day retention policy. Anything over 90 days old was automatically deleted. The policy was such that no employee could be held responsible for losing an old e-mail because there weren't any. So of course the CFO wanted to implement this golfware concept.

My counterpoint was this: "More often than not, we operate within our code of ethics. In most cases, the existance of an e-mail message will protect us from damage rather than cause it. In many cases, we rely on what a client told us when we started a project. Later on, the client forgets we were told not to test certain conditions, etc., and it all changes when the product gets recalled. Searching for those helpful messages will not be easy if we have deleted them. Meanwhile, our opposition will be able to selectively recall whatever they want from their own server, including the messages we deleted from ours. Somebody has a clear advantage here, and it isn't us." Of course, we had archive backups that made the whole thing a moot point. No need to trouble the PHBs with that one.

The company is haunted to this day by an incriminating e-mail that was posted by an employee who admitted that he crafted a travel policy that ignored federal labor laws. It pops up every so often :-)

The article makes a great point. Assume anything you place in e-mail can be retrieved and held against you. The phone is ideal, as wiretapping is (a) unusual and (b) often illegal.

Thats why everyone should encrypt! (1)

fotoflo (1018618) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640225)

Use PGP, GPG, WebmailSafety (www.gwebs.com), etc! Dont let your email go out plain text, and tell people "dont put this in writing"! ARG HOW DUMB CAN YOU BE... silly blabbermouth, plaintext is for kids!

Re:Thats why everyone should encrypt! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21641239)

Do you write your email directly to ciphertext as you type? Because if you're not, the client might still be saving intermediate drafts of your email in plaintext on your hard disk, which can be recovered later.

Encryption is dandy for things going across the wire or sitting in your inbox (presumably your decryption utility doesn't save any plaintext copies anywhere when you open them), but very few mail clients will bother to protect the mail before you hit "send."

Multiple levels of deletion?? (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640263)

He must be talking about filesystem metatdata. For modern HDDs, you cannot see how often something was deleted, or hwat was there before....

Hello 1998 (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640751)

...I think your missing article is here.

WTF is this? Shouldn't this article be about Facebook or some other latest and greatest technology?

How have any of these email issues changed in the past 10 years?

Welcome to paranoia era. (1)

rdrd (1142449) | more than 6 years ago | (#21640817)

This kind of article just make people paranoid. Browsing through comments, I could see the signs ...
I prefere to find the company which won't kick you out for saying something not politically correct.

People relations have always been the same. And yes, somebody may be pissed off that a very important person just entered into maternity leave and let the co-workers with a lot of stuff to do. What's new under the sun? Well, the new correctitude. There is just an excess of correctitude. And the new sense of morality, too. Money based. Isn't it sad ?
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