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Letters | CLOSE WATCH ON EMPLOYEES’ E-­MAILS

Work e-­mail should be fair game, but only if fairly accessed

Harvard University stirred controversy this month after news that it had secretly gained access to the e-mail accounts of 16 resident deans to investigate the source of leaks following a student cheating scandal.

JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Harvard University stirred controversy this month after news that it had secretly gained access to the e-mail accounts of 16 resident deans to investigate the source of leaks following a student cheating scandal.

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.

Andrew Oram

Arlington

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