October 25, 2004

email privacy

I just found out today that an email I sent to one woman was read by another. Specifically: I entered into an agreement (verbal) with an agency that was providing a service for my family (hey, I'm trying to be discreet here). This service was to be performed without my direct supervision, so I wanted to make sure I could communicate with the worker. I asked if we could do this via email. Her supervisor okayed this. Good.

Nobody told me the emails were going to be read, not just by the worker, but by her supervisor. As a policy, not just a random event. Not so good.

I don't know the legalities of this, but when you call a company -- like, say, your cell phone provider -- the person on the other end always tells you if the call will be recorded or if a supervisor might be listening in. I assume this is a legal precaution, that you have the right to know who will be auditing your words. Well, doesn't that apply here? I had a personal, one-on-one type of connection with this worker. Neither she nor her supervisor told me that my words -- not a paraphrase of my words, but the actual written documents -- would be printed out and passed on.

I can hear your question from here and no, I did not write anything I regret. Nothing damning or condemning or even slightly critical, though the supervisor took one thing I wrote as criticism and defended herself against it. Much to my surprise, since that was the first I knew she was reading.

But legal or no, this is very very wrong. I feel violated.

Posted by Tamar at October 25, 2004 11:59 PM

You've never run into this before? I can't think of a single instance of business email sent to a business address being considered private and only to one person unless it's a small company and there's already a track record of it being okay. It makes me nuts too - I'm currently tangling with a lower employee at a small company, and she ended up reading and replying to mail sent to a higher employee because they were on vacation - but I'm surprised you consider it a violation. I mean, if you send a snailmail letter to, say, the VP of an airline's refund department, do you think they'll really read it - or is it the staff under them?

Posted by: Otto Kitsinger at October 27, 2004 01:42 AM