In 2015 I am really surprised that I am writing this. At this point I have been using email since 1994. Granted I was a bit ahead of the curve but not by a huge margin. So If I am generous and say that 1996 was the year that email became a mainstream technology then we have been using it for close to 20 years! By doing so we have also been partaking in social media for that long. Granted email is not twitter or a blog or Facebook but you are interacting with potentially large quantities of people and potentially doing so badly. With 20 years of experience we have learned quite a few things like;
- It is pretty easy to spoof email.
- Reply All may have implications you did not intend (send to entire company).
- Email is pretty easy to monitor.
- You can do real damage with email.
So it is shocking to me that again in 2015 we see this article pop up that states as part of the Ashley Madison Hack more than 15,000 of the emails that were used on the site and are now compromised are either .MIL or .GOV Addresses. This is bad for lots of reason that thousands of other people are talking about so I am not going to re-hash it all. But in my mind what is bad is that after all the time we have had to understand how compromised email as a platform is and how compromising it can be by being tied to an individual people still use their work email for stupid shit.
Let me give a smaller example…I wont use names of individuals or companies but this is a real story at a real company that I worked for in my career. One day I was talking to another employee at their desk early on in their employment. As part of that conversation they pulled up some questionable content in their email and I made a statement something along the lines of “You should keep that crap in your personal email not work.” This led to a discussion about how they are not allowed any privacy based on the email system being owned by our employer and that by doing compromising things on a work system they could expose the entire company and our clients to problems including hacking and or litigation. Quite a bit of time passed and one morning I showed up to work to find that major drama had ensued around the same employee. Without his knowledge the employee had been dating a married woman who was estranged from her husband. As part of this relationship they were both using work email systems to discuss personal matters about their relationship. The husband in the equation at some point accessed the wife’s webmail account and became privy to the other side of the situation. The drama then kicked into high gear as the husband farmed email addresses from as many employees of both the company I worked for and the wife’s company from there email interactions (for real business) and composed an email airing years of dirty laundry. I felt bad for the guy in my office and while it did not get him fired right away I don’t think for a second it was was not part of him leaving within six months of the event. On his part he could have prevented much of the drama by using personal email.
Beyond this drama filled model I have also been a member of remediation teams in several companies where email system administrators were monitoring email of executives and other staff and leveraging personal information to their benefit at least until they were discovered and fired. So the take away from all of this is that YOU MUST SEGMENT PERSONAL AND WORK EMAIL! Come on people personal email is free now and it is solid. My guess is the same people using work emails for the personal things listed above are probably also using them to communicate with potential new employers. These practices are damaging to how you are viewed in your community at large. As a reverse you are also doing yourself no favors if your doing business for your company or an employer from @gmail, @AOL, @HOTMAIL or other private type email systems.
The long and short of it is a large segment of our digital communities are failing to segment their digital lives. Drama at work should not go to deep into your personal life and drama in your personal life should not compromise your ability to do you work when it comes to your digital lifestyle. Split this stuff up people as a favor to yourself and everyone around you.