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June 2, 2008

I Respect Your Privacy, But It Doesnít Exist Here


Regular readers of this column know that Iím not big on privacy. I canít even guarantee that Iím not spying on you right now. Iím probably not. But you never know.


Bosses have the right to do a lot of spying, and it never ceases to amaze me how poorly employees understand this. Just a few examples for you to ponder:


You know that instant message account of yours? Actually thatís an instant message account of mine. My computer. My internet connection. Mine mine mine. You know the forum for Silver Spoons fans, where you have an account through which you post an average of 45 messages a day about Ricky Schroeder? What would the other six Silver Spoons fans do all day without you to talk to?


Yeah, well, actually thatís my account. I think youíve made your point by now that Freddy Lippencottleman was the coolest character ever on the show, but I donít think youíre ever going to convince BatemanBabe or Ricky=HotBod to agree with you. So in the meantime, maybe you could finish those reports Iíve been waiting for!


This may surprise you, but I donít actually care if my employees do stuff like this during the day. What I do care about is that they get their work done. Everyone has different work styles, and some people need to complete a task and then indulge in a few minutes of mindlessness before returning to another task.


If you engage in the never-ending Ricky vs. Rick debate throughout the day, but still do everything I expect you to do, fine by me.


But letís be clear about this: I am going to know about it. And you had better believe I am going to know how youíre using the e-mail account that belongs to me and is provided to you for the purposes of your doing your job.


How will I know? By going into your office when youíre not there and reading your e-mail, of course. Thatís not complicated.


Oh the questions that are going through your mind right now! How could you be so disrespectful of your employeesí privacy? Donít you trust them? Are you some sort of pervert?


Letís take them one by one.


I do respect their privacy. Itís just that their privacy doesnít happen to exist here at the office. I donít go to their homes unless Iím invited. I donít look through their cars. I donít look through their coats. Those are theirs.

But I look at whatís on their computers and whatís in their desks. Those are mine.


I do trust them, but trust has nothing to do with it. There is no pretext of anything being secret here. I want to know whatís going on within my company, so I look. Your big night out with your friend Lenora sounded awfully boring to me. And from the sounds of that guy, I wouldnít go out with him if I were you, no matter what your friend Samantha tells you to do.


But Iím glad to see you came up with a good idea for the bank client, so weíre good here. Now, your co-worker whoís been using the e-mail account I provided to schedule job interviews? I donít even object to that, to be honest, but I do object to her telling a friend who works for a competitor about a problem we had with an account last week.


So sheís fired.


What was the other question? Am I some sort of pervert? Iím sorry. That question is too vague.


Right now, many of you privacy fetishists are surely appalled at what youíre reading, so let me tell you the difference between me and all the gloriously wonderful employers who donít read their employeesí e-mails after the employees leave the office.


I exist.


Compute wisely!

© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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