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Email can bring down your company warns Disney boss

Employers have been increasingly tightening up on what employees can and cannot do with email
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor

Walt Disney chairman Michael Eisner warns of the dangers of email in a speech to US graduates -- and admits his own email gaffe.

Eisner is reported as saying that abuse of email could bring down companies or even countries. The Disney boss tells how he mistakenly sent the firm's earnings to ABC News before the figures were on public release.

In the UK, a test case two years ago -- in which building society Norwich Union was sued for allegedly libellous internal emails sent by an employee -- has seen employers get tough on the use of email. According to Robin Bynoe, lawyer with City law firm Charles Russell, employers have been increasingly tightening up on what employees can and cannot do with email. "A lot of people have introduced quite draconian measures banning people from sending private email and retaining the right the supervise everything that is sent," he says.

The Human Rights Act, due to become law in the summer will put a stop to such practises Bynoe believes. "The Human Rights Act is likely to give employees the right to unsupervised communications," he says. This will mean firms will have to find alternatives to keeping an eye on what employees are sending. Bynoe advises that firms should encourage employees to use their own personal email account, such as Hotmail, for all non-work-related communications.

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