Be careful of your email (just in case you didn't know this already)

I had almost forgotten about this, but there was a good story on NPR during last Sunday’s “Weekend Edition” about the dangers of email. It was called “Workers Grow Wary of Office Emails.” Essentially, it was a story about a fact that is well-known and widely ignored: other people can– and, in some cases, will– read your email, and what you write might get you into trouble. But it did mention one thing that I didn’t know that I thought was interesting. You know the guy who was the CEO (or something like that) of Boeing and who got fired as a result of an affair he was having with a subordinate co-worker? The reason he got caught was he was sending “love letter” emails to this woman.

Anyway, the two pieces of advice I always have for students and co-workers:

  • If you are in the process of comitting a crime or doing something else you shouldn’t be doing, you probably shouldn’t be using email to make those arrangments. But I think most of my students know this. Five or six years ago, I think it came as a surprise to my students that some IT person might be reading their email; it doesn’t seem that surprising now. Of course, I’m sure that doesn’t stop them from sending inappropriate email messages….
  • Get an alternative email address for your own personal uses– a Yahoo! account, for example. I think EMU’s “fair use” policy for email and web publishing is typical of a lot of colleges and universities: it is both open-minded, embracing the concept of academic freedom, and unfortunately vague, opening the door to all sorts of questionable “prosecutions” and/or limitations in use (it is probably “against the rules” for me to conduct business via my EMU email account). I decided to pay for my own server space a few years ago, and I use the email that comes with that service for email with friends and family.

    Of course, the email and web site services that I pay for out of my own pocket are so much more reliable than what I get from EMU, I’ve often thought of just moving everything I do over to that server space. In fact, the web sites for this semester are available on this server space. But that’s a slightly different issue.

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