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Use Work Email Very Carefully

Back at my former employer, I had the great fortune of making a lot of friends my age (they hire a hundred plus each year out of school) and so we did (and still do) quite a bit of emailing back and forth every single day, sometimes up to 300 emails a day. What’s funny is that my group of friends were always wary of using foul language, using punctuation to replace letters in an attempt to confuse any automated detection methods (as if putting an @ instead of an ‘a’ would actually trip it up), but few censored the content of the message itself. Think of any hot button topic and we’ve discussed it – immigration, welfare, finance, weapons control, etc; and we’ve had the entire spectrum of opinion represented from the apologists all the way to the fervent activists on either side of any issue. But ,if you think about it, most business probably don’t care if you swear… they’re more likely to be interested in the other things we didn’t censor and whether you’re revealing company secrets in the process.

Now, let’s tackle the two issues separately. The first is whether you hold an opinion that is contrary to either the company’s position, if it has one, or is too extreme in either direction. Take illegal immigration for example, what if you said you hated all illegal immigrants and wanted them all to die? Is that worse, from a company’s perspective, than saying a swear word? I would hardly think so. Now let’s play a little Minority Report, what if some filter saw that and flagged the email, would the employer be compelled to act?

Now, let’s say you’re selling company secrets and being all super covert about it, well according to an article in Fortune [3], email analysis software is much smarter than you because it looks for intentionally vague language, uncharacteristic behavior, etc. If you never come into work earlier than 11 AM and you suddenly start sending emails to an outside source about “meetups” at 6AM, well… zap, they might have gotten you.

Either way, I think that one should always be careful in any sort of communication, whether its stored forever or not, because you never know.