Evesdropping on the computer. Legal?

I live in Illinois and am a school teacher. I always thought that it was legal for my administrators to be able to pull up my school e-mail accounts and look at my messenger (MSN, aol, yahoo, etc.) messages. Now we have a teacher who is calling the Atty. General about it. Another says it’s not legal. Anyone know the answer to this?

Ascrivey,
As I understand it, as long as the district owns the computer, the email account (domain name) and the server in which you obtain online service, they have full legal right to “browse”. I also understand that anything you do on a school computer or server during your contracted work hours are up for grabs as well.

I don’t know the exact law or group of statutes stipulating that, but there are these kinds of situations in business everyday. Contact your local teachers union --they should have the answer. It may be a state-to-state issue, but I think it’s a pretty standard one.

Also, your district may have in policy somewhere concerning computer and internet use. If a district has a policy, it will hold up in court as law as long as it is constitutional.

As far as administrators being given the authority to do that, it depends on delegation in your district and how much “big brother” power they may have.

Hope this helps! :slight_smile:

I can give you an answer from the corporate world. The computer and all the information on it is the property of the company. Our EEO trainging assues us this has been tested successfully in court.

All the email, pictures, messages, & plans for world domination on my hard drive (or our supporting servers) is all the company’s business.

I agree with Belrix, since it is a school computer and school server, the school can read them. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware that their work email is neither secure nor private.

I work in the securities industry. My company is obligated by the SEC (or NASD?) to scan our emails for words and phrases associated with insider trading… and to keep them archived for about 3 years. So at least we know up front that it’s not private.

Most people have figured out the “workaround” of using a hotmail, yahoomail, or other email account we can access with Internet Explorer/Netscape. Since it doesn’t go through the work email server, it’s at least a little more private. However, since it’s still the company’s computer, it’s still not a guarantee.

I believe any applicable laws would be referenced in your school policy manual. If there are no state laws that specifically say “they have permission” then the laws will probably side with the school board’s policy. The school board’s policy, in turn, will most likely state the administrators have permission to view a teacher’s online records.

The short of it is, without knowing the specific situation and circumstances, it’s not possible to say that they absolutely don’t have the right to read the mail. However, it appears likely that they would, despite the indignant protests of your co-workers.

From an old, but decent site still: http://www.rbs2.com/email.htm#anchor222000

We have a summary, then quotes summarizing two “classic cases” I refer to for this when I need to.

Thanks for all your help. The woman called an lawyer and found out that they can look at it but cannot use anything we said ie. Mr. X is an idiot, against us. I appreciate all the replies.