Snooping over the electronic medium is one of the most complicated issues generated by the growth of the internet.

People still value privacy and would not like friends, employers, companies or governments to pry into their affairs. There are countries where the right of privacy is very well-developed, and email snooping is a very touchy issue there. Many western countries have different laws that impact employers who snoop on employees via there email.

In the aftermath of September 11, the desire for increased security is understandable. But there is also the real potential for unwarranted invasions of privacy and the exploitation of the security threat to intimidate and harass ordinary citizens. Fortunately, the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of citizens and provides a means to challenge intrusive and unjust searches and seizures by the government.

But what about privacy in the workplace? In this age of high-tech surveillance and increased paranoia, do employees of private companies have any reasonable expectation of privacy?

More than three-quarters of major U.S. firms (82.2%) are actively recording and/or reviewing employee communication and behavior in the workplace, according to a 2001 study by the American Management Association (AMA).

In a separate study, the Privacy Foundation reported that 40 million of the 140 million workers in the U.S. are “online,” and that 35% of these workers are under “continuous online surveillance.”

As more and more offices become dependent on the Internet and e-mail to do business, it isn’t surprising to find that the number of workers being electronically monitored has doubled since 1997.

It follows that with the wider availability and affordability of surveillance software, these numbers will only continue to grow. The Privacy Foundation estimates that the cost of continuously monitoring an employee can be as low as $5.25-a-year per employee.

The standard argument that companies make in defense of snooping is their desire to ensure that workers are not wasting company time or using computers to look at offensive material that could lead to harrassment lawsuits.

See also…

Labor and Employment Law

Internet Law – Forum