Harvard’s Email Mess Illustrates Why Every Employer Should Have a Consistent Email Access Policy

ComputerWorld yesterday reported that the secret search of email accounts by Harvard’s administrators was broader than Harvard’s President originally acknowledged.   President Drew Faust, speaking Tuesday at a meeting of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), said that the inquiry into searches had revealed “highly inadequate” institutional policies and processes for trating electionic communications appropriately. The inquiry uncovered the fact that there are multiple email policies across the University, and some faculties don’t even have a policy.  President Faust, quoted in the online version of Harvard Magazine, summed up a problem which occurs in many business, academic and government settings: “I have also discovered that we have highly inadequate institutional policy and process around the rapidly and constantly evolving world of electronic communication. We have multiple policies across the university that vary across schools, with some faculties lacking any explicit policies at all. In the FAS, there are two statements of policy—and they are inconsistent. One can be found in the Faculty Handbook; another appears on a website where one might not immediately know to look for it, and it is not included with other privacy policies on the FAS home page. How these various policies emerged and were constructed, debated or communicated is unclear. We have also kept inadequate records of actions taken to access email in the past, and, in fact, the state of these records has...

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