Utilizing your work computer for personal reasons may not always be the best decision. Most companies have work policies against employees visiting certain websites and/or accessing personal email accounts during work hours. The reasons for rules against such use range from protection from unwanted viruses on company computers, and also desiring employees to be as productive as possible while on the clock. Due to the advancements with smart phones, most employees are able to send/respond to personal matters on their own devices, but what happens to the personal information you research on your work computer or emails you send and receive, even if on other sites such as Gmail, AOL and/or Yahoo?
There are no guarantees that deleting the history of personal websites visited and/or emails sent and received on your work device actually “disappear.” Emails and other information may stay stored on your work browser’s cache, in a network monitor’s log of your computer activity, or in some of the spyware logs of computer activity. In fact, only your IT department may truly know what happens with this information, even if you attempt to clean it up by deleting information.
Additionally, laws such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act should be taken into consideration while utilizing your work computer, as it is a statute designed to prevent unauthorized access or malicious interference with a computer system. Most employers attempt to utilize this law to claim a violation that an employee actually damaged (i.e. – “any impairment to the integrity or availability of data, a program, a system, or information”) its computer system or data. This may be accomplished by not only deleting emails from your work email folder, but also “double-deleting” by emptying the trash folder as well.
Employers, through their employee handbooks, often apprise employees that work emails, even personal ones sent from your work email, are company property and should be held/deleted consistent with their computer use and email policies.
The lesson here is simple. You should only use work property for work, and save personal matters for personal devices and personal time.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com . She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 10 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.