More than half of firms monitor employee e-mail: survey

Study of firms in Europe, Israel and South Africa show corporate accountabliity rules mean more organizations are monitoring and archiving electronic conversations
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|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 04/12/2004

N

ew corporate accountability rules are forcing companies to take a tougher approach to recording and monitoring staff e-mails and instant messaging, according to a survey.

The survey of large and medium-size organizations across Europe, Israel and South Africa found that more than half of firms (56 per cent) now routinely monitor employees’ e-mail messages, while even more (61 per cent) centrally archive all e-mails.

At the same time, more than a third of companies (36 per cent) actively monitor instant messaging communications, and the vast majority (68 per cent) have put in place explicit staff guidelines for both e-mail and instant messaging (IM) usage.

The

Storage Index

survey was commissioned by Hitachi Data Systems. In a press release, the company said, “while such measures may be unpopular among workers with more dubious e-mail and IM habits, the introduction of new corporate accountability regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley act, have led many companies to review their electronic communications policies. This is particularly true in heavily regulated industries such as financial services, where companies face severe penalties for failing to comply with communications auditing requirements.”

Proportion of companies routinely monitoring staff communications

Country

E-mail (%

IM (%)

Austria

50

40

Belgium

57

40

Denmark

30

20

Finland

44

29

France

71

60

Germany

51

41

Israel

57

41

Italy

57

23

Netherlands

66

31

Norway

50

32

Poland

67

17

South Africa

50

40

Spain

77

70

Sweden

30

13

Switzerland

50

47

UK

62

22

Average

56

36

The study also highlighted the substantial variations between companies and across different regions.

For example, among those companies that do not currently monitor e-mail or IM usage, some 60 per cent were unable to say when they would be in a position to do so. In some countries, the number of companies recording and monitoring staff communications is less than half that reported in other countries.

The survey also raises concerns over the length of time companies retain e-mail and IM data, according to Hitachi Data Systems. Although emerging regulations stipulate that electronic communications are archived for anything up to eight years, fewer than one in five firms (18 per cent) currently retain e-mail messages for more than three years.

Proportion of companies routinely archiving staff communications

 

E-mail (%)

Instant messaging (IM) (%)

Country

For less than 3 years

For more than 3 years

For less than 3 years

For more than 3 years

Austria

37

23

20

17

Belgium

70

7

40

0

Denmark

37

27

13

10

Finland

35

9

9

3

France

45

10

37

3

Germany

31

30

13

5

Netherlands

53

22

9

9

Israel

33

30

10

7

Italy

73

7

43

3

Norway

44

9

15

6

Poland

60

10

7

0

South Africa

27

33

17

7

Spain

70

33

53

10

Sweden

27

17

0

0

Switzerland

47

30

27

23

UK

40

19

7

2

Average

43

18

20

6

The survey was conducted as part of the

Hitachi Data Systems Storage Index

, an independently conducted study commissioned and owned by Hitachi Data Systems. Findings are based on 690 anonymous interviews with IT directors throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Participants hailed from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.

Hitachi Data Systems is a developer of electronic storage solutions based in Santa Clara, Calif. It is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Hitachi, Ltd.

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