Business and personal emails: Not the same privacy game

Be careful about how your usage

• Privacy. Although all corporate email characteristically belongs to the corporation, it is generally considered important to isolate the mail for each user, so that they can't all read email to Human Resources or the CEO. This requires a certain amount of effort for account maintenance and administration.

Legal and Regulatory Issues

Finally, most businesses operate under legal and regulatory restraints that are simply not relevant to consumers. Here are a few examples:

• Archiving. There is a strong and highly specific business need for archiving. Some companies want to keep all their information forever, while others want assurance that it is completely removed after a certain amount of time. (Legal requirements can strongly constrain such policies.) Both of these are tricky to do right; keeping information forever requires disaster-proof practices, while complete purging has to account for such pitfalls as back-up tapes.

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• Compliance. In many industries, legal or regulatory requirements place considerable burdens on corporate communication. Beyond archiving, which is often mandated, there are often regulations (such as HIPAA in healthcare in the USA) regarding the treatment of sensitive information. For a company that is not in the communication or compliance business, it can be hard to know what regulations apply, let alone how to comply with them all.

So when all is said and done, if we want to continue to benefit from the power of email in our business life we need to recognise it is a different tool at work than home.

Our business email has to operate under different standards of privacy, much like other forms of business communication. Once we take these concerns into account, we might even find we use email more effectively and create less risk or problems for our businesses in the process.

Of course, all of this depends on employers maintaining reasonable policies about occasional use of personal email while at work. If you expect me to accept the rules about corporate email, you should give me a way to occasionally access my personal email from work when it really matters.

Otherwise, you're forcing me to use corporate email to talk to my kids' doctor, and I'm far less likely to view the privacy limitations of corporate email so benignly.