Thursday, July 21, 2005

On e-mail at work, or beware what type

The July 15th, 2005 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education features an article by Piper Fogg entitled "Paper Trail." If you have an online subscription, you can likely access it, but you can also get the print version. The article is the story of a History professor who uses his state's open records laws to get e-mails written by colleagues. While the article reads almost like a soap opera, the article does serve as a reminder that if you are a state employee, and a large number of us in academia are, then your e-mail is subject to the open records laws. Most states have such laws in one form or another. The article does note that "though many states prevent the disclosure of personnel records, Georgia is not one of them" (A20). The story takes place in Georgia, and it was a dispute over a spousal hire. The point is that if you work for a state, and this includes public universities, you need to be aware of this. Take some time to find out what exactly are the laws in your state, and you should remember to always be careful with you e-mail, or other form of communication connected to your state agency (the public university in this case), especially if you are using the employer's e-mail. Monitoring is a given, and open records mean anyone can ask for the correspondence. For more information, readers may be interested in visiting the Electronic Frontier Foundation page, which is always a good source of information on digital issues. I just did a brief search on "e-mail and workplace" and got various pieces of information. Worth a look.

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