When you send an e-mail, you expect that it will be read only by its intended recipient. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
- There is no guarantee of e-mail privacy. A message can be intercepted and read as it makes its way over the Internet to its final destination. Consider e-mail as you would a postcard.
- The safest way to send sensitive or confidential information via e-mail is by using encryption software.
- Some companies consider e-mail to be the same as paper mail and reserve the right to review all electronic correspondence.
- When you delete a message from your computer, a copy of the message may still remain on the mail server and can be retrieved.
Traditional mail has for centuries been reviewed by employers, monitored by governments, and even stolen to get a look at its contents. Security envelopes may keep prying eyes from seeing what’s inside, but they won’t stop someone with a letter opener. While e-mail offers a number of additional security measures, there is no guarantee that someone cannot get around them. And in some cases, such as when using work e-mail, you may have no rights to e-mail privacy. It’s a good idea to keep this in mind, and always be mindful of what you send electronically.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I delete a message at work, is it gone for good?
Probably not. Even if your e-mail was deleted from your employer’s mail server (which it probably wasn’t), many companies keep archives of all ingoing and outgoing e-mail communications. This isn’t because they want to track their employee’s ever correspondence. It’s often a legal requirement, particularly if you work in an industry that must adhere to any type of compliance regulations.
Are there additional steps I can take to keep my messages private?
One of the best things you can do is to use an e-mail program that sends messages over a secure connection. If you use a web-based e-mail program, make sure that the address starts with https: rather than the usual http: and that the padlock icon appears next to the address bar. If you are using an e-mail program on your computer or mobile device, check with your e-mail provider to learn how to setup an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection for sending and receiving e-mail.
What is encryption? And how do I use it?
Encryption is commonly used to secure online communications. Essentially, it converts the contents of a message into a code that can only be read if you have the specific decryption code. Many business-class mail programs, such as Microsoft Outlook, allow you to encrypt e-mails prior to sending them to prevent anyone from intercepting your message on its way to the intended recipient. There are also a number of e-mail clients designed specifically for encryption.
The exact method for setting up encryption varies by program and may require you to pay for a security certificate, so it’s best to consult with an IT or security professional if you are interested in adding this level of security. Also keep in mind that your company may have policies against encrypting messages for the reasons mentioned above.
How do I delete messages from my server?
After you delete the message, make sure to open the Trash or Deleted Mail folder and delete it from in there too. If you’re using an e-mail program that syncs with your server, this will remove the message from there as well. If you’re using a program that simply downloads any new messages, but doesn’t sync them across all of your e-mail programs, there may still be a copy left on the server. If you’re not sure, check with your e-mail provider.