Misuse Of Email Facilities


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Introduction

The intention of this report is to document and concisely illustrate the issues surrounding the misuse of email facilities provided by MoneyWise Ltd. It will examine the direct threats that any abuse of the email facilities will have on the company. Explain fully the reasons why MoneyWise Ltd requires email usage guidelines. Present a policy outlining acceptable email usage for the company and discuss any legal implications surrounding this policy.

Discussion

Threats

This section of the report will investigate the threats that unrestricted email use would have on organisations. An article according to Rothman and Taffae (2003, p.56) states, by some estimates close to 7.2 billion emails are sent everyday. With this instant approval of the usage of emails as a method of mass communication, it has evoked a substantial risk of legal responsibility for companies.

Email has the ability to inadvertently cause damage or embarrassment with the click of a ‘send' button advise Rothman and Taffae (2003, p.56). The informal impression for employers and employees of sending an email is misleadingly perilous, and it is considered things are conversed in emails, which would under no circumstances be said in writing. The key threat with emails is that, they leave a written record even after they have been deleted. This written material or confidential corporate information could potentially lead to embarrassment, defamation or legal implications and an undesirable effect on a company's reputation, if an inappropriate email was leaked, external to the organisation.

Another risk of uncontrolled email usage is the huge amount, of an organisations time and money, employers and employees waste on sending pointless emails. This state of affairs could consequently result in lower productivity and performance of a business. According to Best (2003) statistics from business-writing consultants Emphasis state, companies are now spending an average of £10,000 per person per year paying employees to read and write unnecessary emails and, that people often have to wade through 30 or 40 emails before they can begin their ‘real work'.

One of the most dangerous threats to a business of email misuse is the distribution of offensive material. The circulation of offensive content, which once could have been considered light office banter, places companies open to damaged reputations and litigation, with the company and its directors personally liable.

As commented above offensive email messages sent can be incredibly problematic, but so can that of material sent to other employees within the company.

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Unmonitored use of the email system to circulate such emails could potentially result in employees and employers contributing to the creation, of a hostile work environment and endangering relationships with work colleagues and stakeholders. These circumstances, could influence a businesses performance, leading to a poorly motivated workforce, create disputes and affect HR retention.

A statement by Kahn (2006 cited Hildreth 2006, p.26) explains that "E-mail has taken over as the dominant way employees and organisations exchange information. In the past, e-mail was how information about a meeting was distributed. But today, e-mail is the way all employees transact real business". Combined with all this important data, is a constant danger of email-borne threats such as viruses, Trojans and other malicious software. The consequences of these threats to a company would be costly for various reasons; possess an influence on productivity (operate as a diversion from employees work responsibilities), carry a risk of corruption or theft, of company emails, containing crucial corporate information and could place a business in danger of legal action or fines, for not acting in accordance with government and industry regulations.

Requirements

According to Wang (1997) you would have thought that the "heaviest users of email would be managers dealing with businesses and clients overseas. Instead, it turned out to the people taking things off the bulletin boards and resending them to a long list of correspondents". With this evidence it appears most companies use email as their main communication tool, it is therefore vital an email guide outlining appropriate use and company expectations is devised.

There are numerous beneficial reasons, why a business requires email usage guidelines. Primarily it is an opportunity, to inform employees that a company may need to monitor their messages. Even if a company has no requirement to make studying employees emails a standard practice, an organisation should protect and be fully conscious of their entitlement to do so.

If a business is confronted with an employee who utilises emails to send pornographic images, communicate confidential corporate information, or transmit material of a racist, sexist, homophobic or indecent nature, the function, of a transcript of email guidelines will serve to protect the company. So, if there is no email policy notifying employees that a company, may need to read their emails, an employee may prosecute the business for violation of privacy, under directives such as the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. Even if the proceedings were unsuccessful, this situation would be exceedingly expensive and time consuming to an organisation.

Email guidelines inform employees how the company expects the email system to be used, and what usage is prohibited. The purpose of this is to avoid legal implications, negative publicity and damage to the companies' reputation. The concept of an email policy is to prevent this abuse, in the first place and to assist employees with a coherent understanding of the power, and the danger email communications can have.

With statistics presented in the article by Roberts (2003, p.9) stating, almost a third of UK employers have dismissed staff for misuse of the internet or email in the past five years, it is evidential, that understandable and concise communication, of email use guidelines is executed within a company. With the clear intention to avoid the consequences of abuse, such as time wasting which has a costly effect on a business.

Whilst the adoption of a company email policy will not protect a business absolutely from potential legal exposure, it facilitates to support arguments of having taken reasonable steps to minimise all the possible threats of email misuse.

Recommendations

Email Policy

This practice covers the use of email facilities supplied by MoneyWise Ltd for internal and external communication. It illustrates methods of use that are judged acceptable and unacceptable. In addition it provides guidance on components on best practice in the use of email.

1. Behaviour

Email is a means of communicating information. It has been implemented by MoneyWise Ltd for the function of financial services. It is recognised however that some restricted use of these facilities for non financial services purposes is acceptable. Use of email facilities for ‘non work' purposes ought to be reserved to a minimum amount. Individuals must guarantee that such conduct will not reduce their operational efficiency or productivity, or that of any other staff at MoneyWise Ltd. Audits will be carried out to protect against misuse, and employees cannot preserve any prospect of privacy. Individuals may be called upon to substantiate their use of the system at any occasion and authorisation for personal use by any member of staff can be prohibited by their line manager at any time.

Users of the corporate email system are reminded that any external emails transmitted display the name MoneyWise Ltd in the senders email address and consequently the sender must ensure that the content of such messages is of a suitable nature. MoneyWise Ltd will not recognise activities in the use of email facilities that is possible to undermine its reputation.

Email facilities must not be used to:

• Engage in game playing
• Engage in gambling
• Perform personal business interests
• Access, send or publish material of a sexual or pornographic nature, or material that may be considered to be offensive
• Send or publish information that harasses, mistreats, threatens or bullies others
• Send or publish abusive, insulting or defamatory messages regarding individuals
• Send or publish messages, jokes or cartoons that are sexist, homophobic or racist
• Send or publish malicious software, e.g. computer viruses
• Send unsolicited messages, such as bulk messages, which are likely to cause annoyance
• Take part in or create electronic chain letters
• Send or publish copyright material
• Send or publish personal or sensitive information about an individual (N.B. Data Protection Act 1988)

Nonconformity with any of the regulations set out in section 1 shall be deemed misuse of the companies email system. Misuse of any MoneyWise Ltd computer system will be considered as a disciplinary action, predominantly where breach of conduct is repeated. Misuse may perhaps also result in a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and/or Data Protection Act 1998.

2. Security

Data should only be transmitted via email on a need-to-know basis. If privacy and confidentiality are significant, some other means of communication should be sought. Incoming and outgoing emails, together with attachments, constitute as an official record.

3. Management of Email Account

All users should read their emails once a day as a minimum, so productivity and performance is not affected.

Before going on annual leave or absent from the office for extended periods, users should make arrangements to deal with incoming messages. A limit is placed on the amount of space accessible to each user for storage of emails. Warning messages are automatically sent to users when they are close to this limit.

4. Administration

All MoneyWise Ltd personnel are automatically allocated an email user account, providing admittance to the corporate internal and external email facilities. As part of their training, new employees will be educated with their responsibilities and accountabilities in the use of the email system. It is mandatory that all users of the email system sign a form signifying they have read and agreed to abide by the conditions of the policy.

In instances whereby a manager is required to access an individual's email account in order to administer the member's appropriateness in their use of email, the manager must request access in writing to the head of IT at MoneyWise Ltd. The granting of access to an individuals email account must be in accordance with Data Protection and Human Rights legislation.

Legal Implications

The legal implications associated with email are significant. By the very function of MoneyWise Ltd as a business, and the current prominence of email as a key method of communication, attention will be drawn to the regulators in the industry, and with constant developments in technology it is essential there is a review of the email policy, on a frequent basis. This is to guarantee it complies with any new legislation and so to avoid criminal and civil penalties. which may concur if the email policy is found to be incorrect.

It is vital that management at MoneyWise Ltd utilise the email policy in a professional and ethical manner to ensure there is no breach of employee's right, in relation to Data Protection and Human Rights legislation, as cited in the MoneyWise Ltd email policy. This is to ensure the company does not find themselves liable and in court for misconduct against an employee.

Finally it is important for employees of a business to be conscious that the email policy sets out clear guidelines, to what substantiates as a misuse of the email system, and it identifies within the practice that disciplinary action will be taken if a breach of the policy is recognised. The consequences of disciplinary action to a company can be an economic and operational nightmare. For instance, if a business faces a court case, the IT department faces the overwhelming challenge of discovering the information to comply with the courts. It is consequently critical that a company has the capability, to efficiently retain and retrieve email when required; this can be achieved with the implementation of an archiving strategy. This is designed to mitigate the risk email can present to the business in this ‘information age'.


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