Paper Moves Correspondent for Reading Electronic Mail

Article excerpt

The Los Angeles Times has recalled a correspondent from its Moscow bureau for snooping into the electronic mail of his colleagues.

The correspondent, Michael Hiltzik, a well-regarded journalist who joined The Times' Moscow bureau in August, is being reassigned to a position in Los Angeles as a disciplinary action, editors and reporters at the newspaper said.

Although computer experts have warned that the proliferation of electronic mail throughout corporate America poses a threat to employees' privacy, Hiltzik's reassignment is one of the few times that such a high-ranking employee has been disciplined for reading his co-workers' electronic mail.

Electronic mail systems, known as e-mail, allow employees to send messages to each other via computers.

A few companies have taken great steps to protect the privacy of such messages, which typically require a password to retrieve. At some companies, reading another person's electronic mail is a violation of corporate ethics and may result in dismissal.

Privacy experts say, however, that many companies do not have adequate safeguards to prevent employees from determining the passwords of co-workers and gaining access to their electronic mail. And some companies reserve the right to monitor electronic messages to keep tabs on their employees.

The Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 protects the privacy of electronic messages sent through public networks like Compuserve and MCI Mail, to which individuals and companies subscribe. …