Have you ever had a bad day at work, complained to colleagues about it over an internal messaging app and then worried that your boss might be able to read all of your complaints? Turns out, you have every right to be concerned; communications on a work device are rarely as private as they may seem.
In July, Netflix fired three marketing executives for messages criticising colleagues on what they thought was a private Slack channel. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos explained in a LinkedIn post that it was not a simple case of employees venting on Slack, but rather “critical personal comments made over several months about their peers”, including during meetings when those peers were presenting. “It's also worth noting that we don't proactively monitor Slack or email,” he continued. “The Slack channel was open, so anyone could access the conversations even though the employees concerned thought it was private.”
Workers are often seduced by the illusion of privacy when it comes to workplace communications, mistakenly believing that they can privately chat, send emails or even videoconference on a company computer without their employer viewing that information afterwards. Yet, what appears private in the moment can often become public with the click of a button. The reality is that technology exists for employers to track virtually all workplace communications by all employees at all times, even if companies are rarely transparent about the level to which they do this.