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E-mails Are Not Truly Private In New Jersey Or Anywhere Else

The current “scandals” involving General Petreaus and General Allen illustrate the perils of e.mail. People often mistakenly believe that e.mails are private and cannot be accessed after they are deleted. In general, if you e.mail from a work computer you should have no expectation that the employer will not be able to access your private e.mail using other providers such as gmail or yahoo and the like. E.mails are not anonymous because providers and others can generally locate who the person sending the e.mail is.

In addition, law enforcement can generally obtain e.mail with the use of a subpoena and the provider has to comply. The providers can access e.mails that are deleted. Email is responsible for people being criminally prosecuted (see Wall Street insider trading cases in which brokers e.mail each other illegal insider tips), to be fired (if employees either spend too much time e.mailing or use e.mail for inappropriate purposes such as getting into conflict with co-workers or customers) or to have all kinds of relationships ruined.

Clearly, e.mail should generally be limited to communications which the sender would not be embarrassed by if they appeared on the front page of the local paper. The use of e.mail to vent or confront should be avoided. Its not worth the risk expecially when even anonymous e.mails can usually be traced to who the actual sender is.

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