Employees get the message: no private life on office chat
Miss Ke used to log on to her desktop MSN messenger all day, because her
company used MSN as a cheap communication tool for colleagues and
She was so used to this convenient online chat device she sometimes
indulged in short, intimate conversations with her handsome boyfriend, until one
day that she realized that their conversations were public knowledge.
shocked to discover that everybody knew what we were saying to each other,
because our MSN Messengers were monitored and the technical engineers couldn't
keep their mouths shut," said Ke, who works for a foreign trade company in east
China's Zhejiang Province.
"I feel hurt when my colleagues make fun of me by
quoting our private words," Ke said.
Ke's case is increasingly common.
Software that can monitor online chat rooms such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo!
Messenger and ICQ is widely available in China, and many companies justify their
surveillance practices as a means of preventing the leakage of business
According to the Shanghai Morning Post, an employee with a bank in
Shanghai, identified as Lisa, quit her 30,000 yuan (US$3750) per month job last
October for the same reason as Miss Ke.
A recent survey by a web company
called China Job Online showed that 89.2 percent of respondents used chat tools,
such as MSN and ICQ, in their offices and about 20 percent said their companies
had installed cameras or software to monitor chat content.
Half of the
respondents considered the surveillance a violation of employees' privacy and
said they would appeal to the courts if it happened to them, the survey
Miss Ke was advised by her lawyer Su Hongtu, an attorney with Huatai
Law Firm in Hangzhou city, to take her employer to court.
"Miss Ke could
accuse the company if she has authentic evidence to prove the technicians
purposely revealed and spread her private conversations," Su said.
asked the head of the surveillance department for an apology, he refused to give
one. The head said his department monitored employees' MSN to prevent them from
revealing the company's confidential documents to outsiders.
Su Hongtu said
the company may be justified in monitoring employees' MSN, which is used mainly
for business, during office hours. However, the technicians should keep private
conversations secret, even if their access to them is legitimate.
technician with Microsoft Corporation, owner of MSN Messenger, said users could
prevent private talk being monitored by installing encryption