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Where's MY Email?

Novell Cool Solutions: Trench
By Lindsey Johnstone

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Posted: 20 Mar 2002

I recently responded to a question in the Support Forums that got me thinking. The poster indicated that they had retained their e-mail archive when they left their employer, and he was wondering about the methods that he could use to access this information.

My antennae started twitching. Because this issue addresses who really owns the e-mail that one receives. The obvious and quick answer is, of course, the provider. In this gentleman's case, it was his former employer. But, before we are quick to tell someone that there is no way that we can help them, and that the company or agency policy clearly states (you do have a policy, right?) that e-mails, the contents therein, and any attachments are solely the property of the provider, we need to stop and remember one thing.

GroupWise has a nifty method of supporting multiple protocols. You can set up your GroupWise system so that it will support POP3 and IMAP, in addition to providing the normal collaborative GroupWise system e-mail. Users can have their personal e-mail accounts, outside of the agency or company mail system, come into their GroupWise account and be retained. And once it is brought into the client, it is now part of the records that GroupWise maintains. And asking the question again "who owns the e-mail" becomes a little murkier. A case could be made that the user, who is paying an ISP for the privilege of having an e-mail account with the ISP, has a stake in the ownership of the content. However, trying to sort out what belongs to who could be a massive undertaking.

Consider also, that if you are a public agency covered by records retention or public access to information laws, and that if you allow a user to access their private e-mail account through the agency-provided messaging system, that there could a need to disclose the content of the "private" e-mail, particularly if it discusses in any way the work of the agency, its policies or personnel.

Using agency or company equipment for personal use takes on a new dimension, when the agency or company is providing the means to do so.

The answer to this scenario is a clear, concise policy, stated up front and acknowledged by the employee, that any e-mail brought into the agency or company mail system belongs solely to the provider of the service. This should also cover the use of browser access to POP and IMAP accounts as well.

So, the answer to the question, "Where is MY e-mail?" should be "OUR e-mail is exactly where it should be, on the server".

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