Personal Emails at Work
You need to be aware of your employer’s policy for data backup and for archival of their electronic data in general. Personal emails sent on a business’s computers may be stored for some time, even if you choose to delete them.
Avoiding the Issue CompletelyThe most straightforward advice is not to send confidential non-work messages from computers in your office. If you need to write and receive emails that are not related to your job, your home ISP may provide you with an account, or you could set one up on any one of the numerous free web-based services. If you only ever deal with private correspondence from your home Internet account, you will not need to worry about protecting the confidentiality of such messages in your job.
Taking PrecautionsIf you do need or want access to your own emails from your desk, there are some things you can do to protect your privacy.
First, you can observe good netiquette and not forward any content that you would find embarrassing if they were displayed in public. If you write a message to a colleague mocking your boss, but accidentally forward it to a mailing list of clients, you may quickly find yourself looking for another job without a reference!
For those non-work emails that you feel you must create, deleting them soon sending them and then emptying your deleted items folder will provide some degree of privacy. You will be protected against casual snooping by your colleagues, and the content will probably not form part of your machine’s backup; however, there may still be a record of it on your company’s mail servers.
AdministratorsIt is safest to assume that IT staff have easy access to all your electronic records. Although they shouldn’t be snooping on your private correspondence, your safest approach is to ensure that they won’t find anything embarrassing if they do happen to take a look.
Your friends may think it’s funny to post pornographic pictures or racist jokes to your professional email address, but these could land you in hot water if they are discovered (either in transit or once they arrive on your desktop PC). If this happens to you, you might like to change your circle of friends!
Your Company’s ReputationBe aware, also, that your company may not appreciate your sending certain types of communication from their equipment. For example, a libellous missive from your employer’s account and email address, complete with a company signature, could discredit your company if it ever came into the public domain.
Don’t write any emails if you are angry, even if they are related to your job. You are likely to regret the contents once you have had a chance to calm down. Similar advice applies if you are very tired: you are likely to make a mistake in either the content or the choice of recipients, so wait until the next morning when you are fresh.