Finland’s Parliament passed a law allowing companies to track workers’ e-mail messages, but not to read the messages themselves. With this law in effect, companies will be able to retain information about the e-mails, such as the sender, recipient, the sent and received time and date, and whether the email contained attachments [ref].
Even with such a weak law (it does not permit reading the content of messages), some opposed it arguing it “gives employers more powers than the police, and could lead to an erosion of Finland’s proud heritage as a world leader in human rights” [ref].
It is rumoured that Nokia was pushing for such a law to pass (for it was dubbed “Lex Nokia”). If it were so, they should be applauded for that, because opponents to that law are but yet another example of undue zeal for privacy.
There’s no privacy concern with work-related e-mail messages, or any other company communication material. All company communications, and all company communications channels should belong to the company, not to the workers. The company should have the right to access and read the contents of their worker’s e-mail at any time. The content of those communications are not private. They do not belong to the individual. Workers are dealing with company information when they exchange e-mails, phone calls or postal mail with any other party, and the company has the right to decide who that information can and cannot be shared with. For this reason, the company should also have the right to inspect all company e-mails if they wish to, for policy enforcement, or for whatever other reason. People should keep our private conversations separate from company e-mail systems, if we are so concerned about our privacy.
There is no violation of privacy with this new Finnish law, and neither there would be if the law allow companies full access to their own company e-mails. On the other hand, such “privacy protecting” laws are a refuge for damaging activity by harmful employees. The problem of information leakage in enterprises is more complex than what this Finnish law is addressing, but these “privacy protecting” laws for enterprise environments (in effect in Finland but also in Spain, for instance) only cause problems for business while delivering no benefits to anyone.