Court-ordered releases of e-mail have aided many criminal investigations, notably Enron. Because these organizations are liable for the actions taken in employees’ e-mail, managers must preserve the right to read it. However, managers should respect their employees and delve into corporate communications only for good cause, not to satisfy the personal resentment of a peeved administrator. Thus, the March 17 editorial “Harvard was clearly wrong to check deans’ e-mails” was more on target than Tom Keane’s op-ed in the same edition, “Bosses should not be able to read e-mails.”
Meanwhile, society should also consider the implications of more transient communications, such as chat and texting, which are increasingly replacing e-mail. And the right of an employer should not extend to a telephone company or government to snoop at will.