by CIO Staff

A Quarter of Corporate E-Mail Is Personal

Nov 23, 20052 mins
Enterprise Applications

Nearly a quarter of all corporate e-mail is personal in nature, and 62 percent of workers send business e-mail from personal accounts, according to a new survey.

Seventy-two percent of workers sometimes use their work e-mail accounts to forward jokes, photos, video clips, and other nonwork related messages to coworkers, and another 12 percent of workers said they share music files through corporate e-mail, potentially “violating copyright laws, occupying server storage and eating large amounts of bandwidth,” according to survey authors Mirapoint Inc., an e-mail security vendor, and The Radicati Group Inc., an IT research firm. The Radicati Group talked to 363 corporate e-mail users in a September online survey.

Coupled with an April survey finding that 33 percent of corporate e-mail is unsolicited spam, the new survey shows that more than half of all corporate e-mail is not work related, the companies said in a Monday press release.

While it may not be surprising that many employees use corporate e-mail for personal reasons, the practice can cause problems, said Craig Carpenter, Mirapoint’s director of corporate marketing and global channels. There’s a perception that “everyone does it,” but the survey attempted to quantify the personal use of corporate e-mail, he said.

Forwarding jokes, photos and other personal information to coworkers can expose employers to lawsuits, Carpenter said. “Whether it’s sexually explicit or racially insensitive, there are a myriad of ways it could be inappropriate,” he said.

Ninety-seven percent of the respondents said they have personal e-mail accounts, and 25 percent of them said they regularly forward company e-mail messages to personal accounts, and 62 percent said they sometimes send business e-mail from their personal accounts.

When workers send company e-mail from personal accounts, they can expose their employers to a number of risks, Carpenter said. He called the percentage of workers using their personal e-mail accounts to send out work-related e-mail “alarming.”

Although there may be innocuous reasons for doing so, companies can’t monitor such e-mail messages under compliance rules, and employees can send out company trade secrets or intellectual property through personal e-mail, Carpenter said.

“The vast, vast majority of employees … are not trying to do anything wrong,” he said. “People just don’t think about it, but this can be a challenging situation for employers.”

By Grant Gross, IDG News Service