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A new study has found that 63 percent of corporations with 1,000 or more employees either employ or plan to employ staff to read or otherwise analyze outbound e-mail. The report, released Monday by e-mail security specialist Proofpoint, said 36.1 percent of companies employ staff to monitor e-mail today, with another 26.5 percent saying they intend to employ such staff in the future. In companies with more than 20,000 employees, this practice is even more common, according to the survey, which involved 332 technology decision-makers at large U.S. companies. Forty percent of those large companies employ staff to monitor e-mail today, and an additional 32 percent plan to employ such staff in the future. According to the study, companies are concerned about making sure e-mail isn't used to leak company trade secrets or other intellectual property, and about complying with financial disclosure regulations. Another factor is preventing confidential internal memos from getting zapped outside the company, according to the report. The study comes amid a rise in workplace monitoring. The number of employers who monitor the amount of time employees spend on the phone and track the numbers called has jumped to 51 percent, up from 9 percent in 2001, according to a study released last month by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute. Previous Next That earlier study also found that 51 percent of the companies surveyed use video monitoring to counter theft, violence and sabotage, up from 33 percent in 2001. In addition, it said companies "also keep an eye on e-mail, with 55 percent retaining and reviewing messages." Though liability and regulatory issues may be convincing companies to peek in on their employees, such surveillance raises privacy concerns. Employers can monitor workers to a greater degree these days, thanks to newer technologies such as keystroke-logging software and satellite global positioning systems that can track a cell phone user's whereabouts. According to the new Proofpoint survey, more than one in three companies investigated a suspected e-mail leak of confidential information in the last 12 months. And, it said, more than one in four companies have fired an employee for violating e-mail policies in the last 12 months.
If you think that a little white lie, or a big fat lie, won't get you in trouble on the Internet, please think again. For example, a federal judge in Los Angeles has just barred the allegedly deceptive advertisements of a Web operation that asserted that membership in MP3DownloadCity.com would allow users of peer-to-peer file-sharing programs to transfer copyright materials without running afoul of the law. On top of that, the Federal Trade Commission plans to permanently ban these assertions about membership in MP3DownLoadCity.com, seek monetary compensation for consumers, and provide notification to consumers who signed up for membership that use of these file-sharing programs may subject them to civil or criminal liability. Tell the truth, and nothing but the online truth, especially when stating whether conduct could or could not subject others to legal liability. The defendant, Cashier Myricks Jr., doing business as MP3DownLoadCity.com in Los Angeles, markets and sells a tutorial and referral service that promotes the use of peer-to-peer file-sharing programs to download digital music, movies and computer games, according to the FTC. The defendant's service does not provide a license to download and share copyright materials to its paying customers, unlike a licensed subscription service. For $24.95, the defendant instead instructs customers on the use of free peer-to-peer file-sharing software provided by Kazaa and others. Here is the real rub--the FTC claims that consumers are lured into becoming the defendant's members by deceptive statements to the effect that subscribing to the defendant's service somehow makes peer-to-peer file-sharing legal. The allegedly deceptive Internet advertisements make the following types of assertions: • "AND BEST OF ALL PEOPLE ARE NOT GETTING SUED FOR USING OUR SOFTWARE. YES! IT IS 100% LEGAL;" and • "Rest assured that File-Sharing is 100% legal." Previous Next The FTC's complaint takes the position that the defendant's customers who use peer-to-peer file-sharing programs to download copyright material, or who make it accessible to others, are guilty of copyright infringement and could face civil and criminal liability to the extent they do not have permission from the copyright holders. Not surprisingly, the FTC charged in its complaint that the defendant violated the Federal Trade Commission Act by "falsely claiming that membership in its service made P2P file sharing legal." So, what is the moral of this story? Tell the truth, and nothing but the online truth, especially when stating whether conduct could or could not subject others to legal liability. For further guidance on peer-to-peer file-sharing, consult the FTC's consumer alert, P2P File Sharing: Evaluating the Risks. Biography Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of law firm Duane Morris. His focus includes information technology and intellectual property disputes. To receive his weekly columns, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Subscribe" in the subject line. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of Sinrod's law firm or its individual partners.
By Joris Evers Staff Writer, CNET News.com Published: May 27, 2005, 4:23 PM PDT
In one of the few instances of an individual taking a spam fight to the courts, a New York lawyer has filed a lawsuit alleging that his e-mail address was hijacked and used to send messages promoting a company's stock. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, charges that China Digital Media, a Nevada corporation with operations in China, and its unknown promoters, named in the suit as "John Does 1-10," used lawyer Scott Ziegler's e-mail address as part of a spam campaign. The suit seeks millions of dollars in combined damages. Filed on behalf of Ziegler and his Manhattan firm Ziegler, Ziegler & Associates, the suit claims that between about April 29 and May 3, Ziegler received thousands of bounced promotional e-mails bearing his business address in the "from" field. "It was a severe disruption to my workdays," Ziegler said in an interview. "At some point it overloaded my mailbox, so I could not receive any other messages that I needed to get." According to the suit, Ziegler was "surprised and dismayed" to receive the e-mail rejections because he did not send or authorize the e-mails. He became concerned that people who received the promotional message, including clients or potential clients, would assume he had sent or approved the mailing, the suit said. His firm's client list includes banks and securities companies, according to the lawsuit. As unsolicited e-mail has proliferated, law enforcement agencies and Internet service providers have stepped up their pursuit of spammers, but the effort has done little to curb the problem. Now some smaller organizations and e-mail users, such as Ziegler, are taking action themselves. According to the lawsuit, Ziegler contacted China Digital Media prior to filing the action and received an e-mail from Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ng. In the e-mail, Ng confirmed that his company hired a stock promoter but denied having anything to do with sending spam with Ziegler as the return address. He did not name the promoter and apologized for any embarrassment. A copy of the e-mail from Ng as well as examples of the bounced spam messages were filed with the lawsuit. An apology was not enough for Ziegler. "I was amazed that somebody spammed with an e-mail address that was a real e-mail address, thinking that there would be no ramifications," he said. "We decided to take matters into our own hands." China Digital Media's Ng did not respond to an e-mail and phone call seeking comment.
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