Email access in the workplace may be for both personal and private reasons. Designated access credentials to private accounts fall outside the existing federal rules on employer rights to proprietary data. Rights to email stored on a computer or propriety server is defined under the federal Stored Communications Act. Violation of designated access credentials issued by employers is a federal felony under U.S. law.
The Social Networking Online Protection Act of 2012 introduced legislation prohibiting employers from privacy breach where personal email or social media accounts are concerned. This includes accounts accessed by way of a company server. Passwords, usernames, and personal account information may not be requested by an employer. Misappropriation of an existing or former employee’s social media account information may constitute intent of theft of trade secrets under preceding rulings decided by California and Colorado courts.
Wiretapping laws prohibiting the real-time intercept of electronic communications is expressly cited in U.S. federal communications law. While the standing Electronic Communications Act provides for privacy protections, exceptions for employers fielding email transmission “To” and “From” designated IP addresses where proprietary ownership precedes employee access.
Rules changes in rights to e-mail and social media communication transmission since the turn of the 21st century preface this documentary review of the history behind recent legislative reforms. Showing how stored or intercepted emails is subject to governing laws enacted to protect users and employers from abuse of telecommunications technologies as well as Web based communications applications. The film includes a how-to to e-mail policy formation, and facts about ethical communications practice.