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CyberLove, Romantic eMails, Internet Interludes

by Nancy Flynn

Fooling Around Online Can Savage Careers and Sink Companies 

(ARA) - Think eMail is a safe and speedy way to send cyber love greetings? Think again. In the age of eMail, "kiss and tell" takes on new meaning. Hit the wrong key after composing an intimate eLove note, and your hot message could land on the cold screens of your supervisors, colleagues, or customers. If your beloved forwards your message, your electronic expression could be shared with millions of strangers. Send your CyberLove note on company time, and you could trigger a workplace lawsuit.

Fully 27 percent of Fortune 500 companies have battled sexual harassment claims stemming from employee misuse and abuse of corporate eMail and Internet systems. With 130 million US workers sending 2.8 billion eMails a day, the likelihood of employees using company computers to send racy, obscene, or otherwise inappropriate messages is huge. While employees who send eLove notes via company computers may find themselves embarrassed or unemployed, employers who permit workers to send romantic eMails could land in court battling costly and protracted workplace lawsuits. 


Nancy Flynn, executive director of www.ePolicyInstitute.com and author of The ePolicy Handbook (AMACOM, January 2001; $19.95 Paperback), recommends employers implement written ePolicies that prohibit employees from sending romantic eMail, downloading pornographic Internet images, and participating in adult-oriented online chat. "Written ePolicies help employers control written content, employee behavior, and eLiabilities," said Flynn. "For responsible organizations operating in the age of electronic communication, an ePolicy is an indispensable business tool." 

Among the costly problems a written ePolicy can help protect against are workplace lawsuits, productivity loss, wasted talent, fines and imprisonment, public relations nightmares, security breaches, and wasted computer resources. To limit eLiabilities, employers should heed the advice offered by Flynn in The ePolicy Handbook: 
1. Implement written ePolicies that clearly spell out what is -- and is not -- allowed to be communicated via your organization's eMail and Internet systems. 
2. Use written ePolicies to give employees explicit notice they do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Notify employees in writing that the organization has the right to monitor anything that is transmitted or stored on its eMail and Internet systems, and management intends to exercise that right.

For employees tempted to send CyberLove notes in spite of employer prohibitions, the experts at www.ePolicyInstitute.com offer a word of advice: Don't. "Shooting Cupid's arrow through CyberSpace may be the quickest way to express your love, but it's far from the safest" cautioned Flynn. "Send a romantic eMail to an indiscreet lover, and your private message could suddenly become the subject of public ridicule in the office and around the globe." 

Take the case of Claire Swire, a British woman who suffered international embarrassment when boyfriend Bradley Chait forwarded an eMail in which Swire complimented Chait's performance during a night of passion. Forwarded from reader to reader, Swire's eMail traveled to some 10 million computers in England, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Australia, and the US. Worldwide media coverage, including the notorious London tabloids, drove Swire into hiding. Chait and others responsible for sending Swire's eMail into CyberCirculation were disciplined for violating their respective employers' ePolicies. The ultimate eNightmare, this is a sobering cautionary tale for all eMail users.

Still intent on sending eLove notes? www.ePolicyInstitute.com offers tips: 
-- Beware Hidden Readers. Poor Claire Swire had no idea her boyfriend would forward her private message to unintended, or hidden, readers. If you are trying to keep your relationship quiet, don't use eMail. It's simply not secure. An inaccurate keystroke or your beloved's decision to forward your message could transform your secret relationship into the day's hot gossip. A major headache if your loved one is the boss, a colleague, or a big-time blabbermouth.
-- Write As Though Mom Were Reading. Many people treat eMail too casually, sending electronic messages they'd never express on paper. Play it safe. Don't write anything you wouldn't feel comfortable saying in an elevator crowded with colleagues, customers, and competitors. 
-- Compose Yourself Before Composing Your eMail. No matter how great your passion, think before you write. eMail may be the quickest way to express your love, but it's far from the safest. Once you push send, your eLove note is on its way through cyberspace and probably can't be retrieved. 
-- Keep The End In Sight. Today's perfect romance could turn into tomorrow's battle zone. No matter how much you love and trust your partner, consider the consequences of private eLove notes someday becoming public. Don't write anything that could come back to haunt you. Need convincing? Consider the embarrassing eMail messages Monica Lewinsky intended for confidant Linda Tripp's eyes only. That private eMail correspondence recounting Lewinsky's romance with President Bill Clinton played a major role in the public impeachment of a United States president. 
-- Protect Your Credibility, Reputation, and Career. Adhere to your organization's ePolicies or wind up facing penalties ranging from disciplinary action to termination. 
Visit www.ePolicyInstitute.com for sample ePolicies, downloadable articles, timely information, tips, and news about ePolicies, ePrivacy, and eCommunication. 

Courtesy of ARA Content, www.aracontent.com  e-mail: info@aracontent.com 
EDITOR'S NOTE: To receive review copies of The ePolicy Handbook (ISBN 0-8144-7091-2) or to schedule interviews with Nancy Flynn, call 614/451-3200 or eMail Nancy@ePolicyInstitute.com 
Nancy Flynn, Executive Director of www.ePolicyInstitute.com, is the author of The ePolicy Handbook: Designing and Implementing Effective eMail, Internet, and Software Policies, and coauthor of Writing Effective E-Mail: Improving Your Electronic Communication. A noted ePolicy and eCommunication expert, Flynn has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, the Associated Press, and other media throughout North America and Germany. 
The ePolicy Handbook, written by Nancy Flynn and published by the American Management Association's AMACOM Publishing, covers every conceivable aspect of eRisk management, from assessing an organization's eRisks and vulnerabilities, to enhancing electronic security, to the development of written ePolicies. The ePolicy Handbook also is an invaluable guide to the basics of CyberLaw and the many eInsurance alternatives custom-designed for electronic environments. The ePolicy Handbook may be purchased online at www.ePolicyInstitute.com, Amazon.com, and bookstores. 
The leading online source of ePolicy books, forms, content, and training tools, www.ePolicyInstitute.com is devoted to helping employers limit eRisks through the development and implementation of effective eMail, Internet, and software policies. 

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