Magazine article Information Management

Workplace E-Mail, IM Survey Reveals Risks

Magazine article Information Management

Workplace E-Mail, IM Survey Reveals Risks

Article excerpt

Despite the fact that e-mail and instant messages are primary sources of evidence, many companies remain largely unprepared to manage their inherent risks, according to the "2004 Workplace E-mail and Instant Messaging Survey" conducted by the American Management Association (AMA) and The ePolicy Institute.

The survey of 840 firms revealed that one in every five U.S. companies (20 percent) has had employee e-mail subpoenaed in the course of a lawsuit or regulatory investigation, up from 14 percent in 2003. Another 13 percent have battled workplace lawsuits triggered by employee e-mail.

According to the survey, 42 percent of respondents perform a job function that is governed by government or industry regulations. Fully 43 percent of those regulated employees either do not adhere to regulatory requirements governing e-mail retention or are unsure if they are in compliance. For firms in regulated industries, the failure to properly retain e-mail and IM can--and regularly does--lead to six-figure fines, criminal charges, civil lawsuits, and damaging publicity.

"Most alarming is the business community's failure to retain e-mail and instant messages according to written retention and deletion policies," says Nancy Flynn, director of The ePolicy Institute. "Only 6 percent of organizations retain and archive IM business records, and only 35 percent have an e-mail retention policy in place--just 1 percent more than in 2003."

According to Flynn, companies' failure to properly retain e-mail and instant messages reflects their failure to educate employees about e-mail and IM risks, rules, and policies. "The fact that 37 percent of respondents do not know or are unsure about the difference between an electronic business record that must be retained vs. …

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