Email Policies

In general, the university cannot and does not wish to be the arbiter of the contents of electronic communications. Neither can the university always protect users from receiving electronic communications they might find offensive.

How secure and private is my email?

Electronic mail is less private than most users might anticipate, and the university cannot guarantee complete protection and confidentiality of an individual’s personal electronic communications resident on university facilities. Users should therefore exercise extreme caution in using email to communicate confidential or sensitive matters. The unencrypted nature of email makes system administrators unable to have control over its security once the email has been downloaded to a user’s computer. Also, even if a user deletes an email from a computer or email account, that email may still persist on backup facilities, and thus be subject to disclosure [see Section V of this Policy]. These backup facilities, however, enable a systems administrator to, as a courtesy, retrieve vital emails upon the holder’s request that may have been accidentally deleted, but they are not required to do so.

Users should also be wary of the purported authors of various emails, as there is no guarantee that an electronic communication received was in fact sent by the purported sender, unless authentication technologies are in use. Electronic communications that are forwarded might also be modified. As with print documents, recipients of electronic communications should, in case of doubt, check directly with the purported sender to validate the authenticity of the sender or the content.

What happens if I am out on an unexpected absence and my department needs to access my email? What can I do to keep my email more private?

Sometimes, if you are out on an unexpected absence, your department may need to access your email account for important business-related emails. Your consent will be sought by the university prior to any inspection or disclosure of your email, but in emergency cases where that is not possible, you will be notified at the earliest possible opportunity consistent with law and other university policies of the action(s) taken and the reasons for the action(s) taken. University employees are expected to comply with university requests for copies of email records in their possession that pertain to the administrative business of the university.
In the event of this departmental access occurring, staff members and their department may want to implement the following measures in advance to limit access to personal email and to allow easier departmental access:

  • Use a vacation message during absences that advises correspondents to reroute business email to an alternate email address.
  • Utilize “shared-use” administrative business accounts that defined set of users can access, rather than an email account assigned to one individual, for communications regarding particular categories of business operations.
  • Establish advance agreements stating circumstances and procedures to request password and password changes to gain access to an employee’s email.
  • Organize email records to clearly separate any personal email from business-related email, so that when inspection is required for business purposes, the potential impact on personal email is minimized.

What can I do about spam?

Users who do not want their email addresses made public are cautioned not to send electronic communications to mailing list systems, chat rooms, websites, and newsgroups where they might be discovered and otherwise used for purposes over which the individual has no control. Users are also advised not to send email back to unsolicited spam to unsubscribe, as doing so validates your email address with the spammer and may subject you to even more spam.

Should I use email for record-keeping?

Electronic communications users should be aware that generally it is not possible to assure the longevity of electronic communications records for record-keeping purposes, in part because of the difficulty of guaranteeing that they can continue to be read in the face of changing formats and technologies, and in part because of the changing nature of electronic communications systems.

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