Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

PC Folly in Workplace, There's No Such Thing as Privacy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

PC Folly in Workplace, There's No Such Thing as Privacy

Article excerpt

Personal computers. It's amazing they still call them that. There's nothing "personal" about them, especially in the workplace.

So-called personal computers are so "public," in fact, you should be aware that the e-mail you send, the information you write in word-processing programs, the databases and Web sites you access (including pornographic ones) at work can come back to haunt you, even years later.

Even if you hit the "delete" button.

"Many employees believe their PCs are absolutely private, that they can transmit anything they want and only the recipient of their messages will read them," said John H. Jessen of Electronic Evidence Discovery Inc., headquartered in Seattle.

The reality is quite different, according to Jessen, company president. The 30 lawyers and computer experts on his staff retrieve electronic data in corporate lawsuits.

"Personal computers are programmed with very complicated systems that store e-mail and other data in many places, in different formats and with backups," said Jessen, who started his growing business in 1987. "Even if you use the `delete' button, it means you've only deleted the copy that was on your screen. It still is somewhere, and usually in multi copies. I have found `deleted' data eight years later."

His advice to employees: "Never put anything in your computer that you wouldn't want broadcast on your company's PA system."

Basically, he says, you never know when something you write may turn up in a search for data related to a lawsuit the company is involved in.

Jessen says he doesn't believe employers read individual private e-mail or other material on a daily basis.

"It's too time-consuming and expensive," he said. "I have never run into it."

Still, for employers to read such material would not be illegal, and a recent study shows that the term "employee privacy" may be an oxymoron. …

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