Companies step up e-mail surveillance

March 8, 2008 – 3:25 PM

Large companies are now so concerned about the contents of the electronic communications leaving their offices that they’re employing staff to read employees’ outgoing e-mails. According to research from Forrester Consulting, 44 per cent of large corporations in the United States now pay someone to monitor and snoop on what’s in the company’s outgoing mail, with 48 per cent actually regularly auditing e-mail content.

The Proofpoint-sponsored study found the motivation for the mail paranoia was mostly due to fears that employees were leaking confidential memos and other sensitive information, such as intellectual property or trade secrets, with 76 per cent of IT decision makers concerned about the former and 71 per cent concerned about the latter.

Porn and ropey jokes still figure on the list of concerns for execs, though, with 64 per cent admitting to worrying about “inappropriate content and attachments” on the e-mails. What worries those in charge of tech most about their staff e-mails differs depending on the size of the business, the study found.

The smaller the enterprise, the more likely it was to worry more about attachments and less likely to be troubled by the possibility the e-mail won’t be up to compliance standards set by Sarbanes-Oxley and other legislation.

Understandably, with Basel II and similar looming, financial services was the vertical that is the most concerned with meeting compliance targets–as they should be, it appears.

A survey of UK financial institutions found that around half would be unable to find an e-mail over three years old; storing e-mail is a key demand of the new legislation.

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