Electronic messages are a hot topic these days, grabbing headlines every time we turn around and usually not in a good way. From the hacking and sharing of interoffice emails that were clearly meant to be private at Sony Pictures to the frenzy over who had access to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s official account, hackers are wreaking havoc in cyberspace. So, don’t be surprised if the next headline involves something you wrote.
You’re thinking that’s nonsense, right? But listen up. Companies of all sizes are facing a new frontier in monitoring communications sent from company-issued electronic devices. Savvy companies now have filters constantly searching for troublesome words and phrases that could raise a red flag depending on which person or office is sending the information.
Financial firms might look for words like “guarantee” or “contract” in company-issued emails because those words can be binding on both the person using them and the company sending them. If you’re not authorized to converse, offer or commit on those topics on behalf of your company, don’t use such words in your emails.
This doesn’t just happen to newsworthy people or big companies, either. NPR reported that by some estimates more than 90 percent of the cost of any lawsuit today comes from sorting through company emails and other electronic documents to determine which are relevant to the case. Ask recent law school graduates what they expect to be doing in their first few years on the job, and the answer is “Sit in front of a computer and review emails for litigation.”
What are we learning from this? Expect zero privacy in any of your electronic communications. Courts have even upheld cases where personal emails from attorneys to clients that were received on company-owned computers indicate that the attorney-client privilege of privacy was waived.
Let’s hope that all this talk will scare off at least a portion of the unwanted emails that crowd our inboxes every day and let those offenders get back to the important business of, um, playing Candy Crush?