Risky Business: New Survey Shows Almost 70 Per Cent of Email-Using Employees Have Sent or Received Email that May Pose a Threat to Businesses
November 15, 2005 – Norwalk, CT – Before you hit send, you may want to think twice about the content of your email. Chances are if it is a joke, gossip, or even information about your company, you could be putting yourself – and your company – at risk. A new survey released today, conducted by Harris Interactive® for Fortiva, shows that 68 per cent of U.S. employees who use email at work have sent or received email via their work email account that could place their company at risk. Despite this, 92 per cent of these employees do not believe they have ever sent a risky email. Together these statistics indicate a substantial discrepancy between employees’ perceived and actual risks.
Fortiva commissioned Harris Interactive, best known for The Harris Poll®, to look at email usage among employees. The survey, which examined the email habits of over 1,000 individuals who use email at work, uncovered a number of issues that raise concerns for businesses – both in the way employees are using and storing their corporate email.
According to the results, a majority of employees who use email at work (61 per cent) admit they have used email at work for personal use. Results also show that nearly half (48 per cent) say they have sent or received joke emails, funny pictures/movies, funny stories of a questionable tone (e.g., racy/sexual content, politically incorrect), while one in five (22 per cent) say they have sent or received a password or log-in information via email. When shared through email, this type of content could pose significant risks to businesses, either from a possible security breach or employee-driven lawsuits. Respondents were given a list of nine email categories that could be considered medium to high risk; only 32 per cent said they had never sent or received email in any of those categories.
“As email is being used increasingly as evidence in lawsuits, it is very important for organizations to educate their staff on what is and isn’t acceptable in a workplace communication,” said Dennis Kennedy, an information technology lawyer and legal technology consultant based in St. Louis, Missouri. “Those organizations that don’t implement effective policies and procedures, train their people, and enforce policies for email are at serious risk of facing both future lawsuits and unhappy results in those lawsuits. These statistics reinforce the fact that businesses need to do a better job of reducing their risk by communicating their policies more effectively with employees and backing up that communication with training and well-designed technology solutions,” Kennedy added.
While a majority of employees (73%) who use email at work are aware of corporate email policies, less than half (46 per cent) say they “always” adhere to the policy. This statistic suggests a lack of understanding among employees of the importance of an email policy.
The way that employees are storing their email may be of even more cause for concern than the content of those messages. While 41 per cent of employees who use email would prefer to keep important emails indefinitely, most businesses place limits on the amount of email that can be stored.
Such storage limitations may be leading to practices that could jeopardize information security. The survey reports that half of employees who use email at work (51 per cent) have saved email outside the corporate network, putting valuable and sometimes confidential information at risk of falling into the wrong hands. For organizations that are not archiving their email, this practice of saving data outside the controls of the corporate network presents an even greater risk, particularly in a litigation situation.
“It’s a fact – employees are using your corporate network to send personal emails, from jokes to gossip to confidential information – and every business should be taking the necessary steps to protect that data from ending up in the wrong hands, or leading to a lawsuit,” said Paul Chen, CEO of Fortiva Inc. “If email from your organization is presented as evidence in a trial, and you don’t have a copy of that email, you may be unprepared to defend yourself. Worse still, email that could support your claim of innocence could also be unavailable, ultimately leading to a forced settlement or guilty finding. A reliable email archiving solution can help businesses avoid these situations and save millions of dollars in fines and settlements, not to mention salvaging their corporate credibility.”
An email archiving solution can enforce policies and ensure that evidentiary-quality copies of all corporate email are available in the event of legal or regulatory investigations. Fortiva’s managed email archiving solution was designed to help businesses automatically enforce email policies, meet regulatory compliance rules, and quickly and easily meet e-discovery requests. The Fortiva solution also allows employees to access their own email archives, including deleted email, from their corporate mailbox. This feature can help reduce the burden on email servers, while eliminating the need for employees to store copies of email outside the corporate network.
Additional findings from the survey include (among U.S. employed adults who use email at work):
Those who earn over $75K a year are more likely to save work-related email outside of the company’s network (62 per cent vs. 41 per cent of employees who earn less than $50K a year)
73 per cent admit to knowing their company has an email policy; yet less than half (46 per cent) admit to always making sure they comply with policy before sending a note
9 per cent of U.S. adult employees who use email at work have used company email to submit their resume to another company
One-fifth of employees (22 per cent) have sent personal details to HR including Social Security numbers, salary details, or medical information via email
Harris Interactive® fielded the study on behalf of Fortiva, Inc. from November 2-4, 2005, via its QuickQuerySM online omnibus, interviewing a nationwide sample of 2,400 U.S. adults aged 18 and over, among whom 1,042 are employed and send or receive email at work. Data were weighted to reflect the total U.S. adult population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity, and amount of time spent online each week. In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the overall results have a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points and the results of the employed adults who send or receive email at work is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Sampling error for the various sub-samples of employed adults who send or receive email at work is higher and varies. This online sample is not a probability sample.
About Harris Interactive®
Harris Interactive Inc. (www.harrisinteractive.com), based in Rochester, New York, is the 13th largest and the fastest-growing market research firm in the world, most widely known for The Harris Poll® and for its pioneering leadership in the online market research industry. Long recognized by its clients for delivering insights that enable confident business decisions, the Company blends the science of innovative research with the art of strategic consulting to deliver knowledge that leads to measurable and enduring value.
Harris Interactive serves clients worldwide through its United States, Europe (www.harrisinteractive.com/europe) and Asia offices, its wholly-owned subsidiary Novatris in Paris, France (www.novatris.com), and through an independent global network of affiliate market research companies. EOE M/F/D/V
To become a member of the Harris Poll OnlineSM and be invited to participate in future online surveys, go to www.harrispollonline.com
About Fortiva Inc.
Fortiva is a leading provider of managed email archiving solutions for regulatory compliance, legal discovery and email storage management needs. With its outsourced solution, Fortiva is helping businesses across North America to quickly and easily meet email archiving needs without risking data security. Using proprietary DoubleBlind EncryptionÃ¢â€ž? technology, Fortiva stores all data offsite in encrypted form, so Fortiva staff can never access the content of archived data. The customer retains exclusive access to the encryption keys, allowing them to instantly search and retrieve archived data without worrying about managing the storage infrastructure. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada and with offices across the United States, Fortiva delivers its customer-driven solutions through a strong network of strategic partnerships as well as a direct sales force. Fortiva is a privately-owned company, with investment from Cargill Ventures, McLean Watson Capital and Ventures West. For more information, visit www.fortiva.com.
About Dennis Kennedy.
Dennis Kennedy is a well-known information technology lawyer and legal technology consultant based in St. Louis, Missouri. Kennedy speaks and writes frequently on legal and technology topics and has covered corporate policies on email and Internet usage on the Between Lawyers blog (www.corante.com/betweenlawyers/) as well as in his own blog and articles. He also co-writes a column called “Thinking E-Discovery” at DiscoveryResources.org. For more information, visit www.denniskennedy.com.