How To Manage Your Emails So That You Don't Fall Into A Petraeus-Like Scandal

Barry ShurtzBarry Shurtz, VP of Marketing at Sendmail.

Photo: Barry Shurtz

The recent scandal involving former CIA director David Petraeus is reminder that work email is never private.So how can employees shield themselves from prying eyes?

“Email today has become so easy and people take it for granted,” said Barry Shurtz, VP of Marketing at Sendmail, a business that works with email systems for Fortune 5000 companies.

“People will email someone instead of walking down the hallway. Those conversations hang around, even in deleted folders. The email is still sitting there.”

And this is especially risky for high-ranking executives with reputations to maintain.

“That conversation could live for years and come back to haunt executives — even if they don’t remember having those specific conversations,” he told us.

Shurtz gave us some tips on protecting your digital interactions:

1. Regularly go through your inbox — and other folders — and delete everything.

2. Empty the Trash on your computer.

3. Clean up your Mac through the Disk Utility program. This will erase everything on your local computer.

In Petraeus’ case, the emails were traced through an IP address provided by Google. Shurtz said if you use Gmail at work, refrain from signing into multiple accounts at once.

It’s convenient to have your work and personal accounts opened at the same time, but this will make you vulnerable to having interactions from one account get mixed up with the other.

This is also true if you use G-chat with both your professional and personal accounts. Those interactions can get stored and become your company’s property.

“One advice — keep email accounts separate and sign out of one account before going into the other account,” he told us. “Yes, it’s handy, but I strongly discourage this.”

Furthermore, always think about what you’re sending, because those emails can always be recovered if you’re under investigation.

For example, emails in the financial service industry are archived for at least seven years. And certain organisations will always have the tools to dig up emails much older than that, Shurtz said.

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