Water Week

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Businesses should abandon person-to-person email for their own legal protection, management expert warns

Posted by waterweek on 4 October 2007

Businesses should abandon person-to-person email for their own legal protection, according to a global information management specialist, reported The Age (10/9/2007, p.B1). Don’t rely on email: Rob Hillard, information technology global solutions leader for consultants Bearing-Point, said the notorious Seven Network case showed the dangers of relying on email. He said companies needed to replace person-to-person emails with what he described as “collaborative communications” where many people in the organisation were in on the loop. This would be the best legal protection.

Quick emails a recipe for disaster: “A person-to-person piece of communication is not visible to anybody else. It is a legal document. You would never consider writing a letter between two organisations without having an appropriately authorised person reviewing it but you wouldn’t hesitate to have two junior members of two companies write an informal email to each other that would expose both organisations,” Hillard said. “Email is a terrible medium to do the majority of business. We have fallen back on it because it’s there. Everybody can see the communication that’s happening. They can see the notes and if there is an exposure, it’s dealt with at the time.”

Collaborate instead: Collaborating, rather than just communicating, meant companies could cover themselves by showing courts later that there was a mutually agreed action. “If you are collaborating, people are a lot more formal about the way they record personal information. We can also start to turn privacy and personal information into a corporate asset where we can benefit the customer rather than making it something we are trying to hide”.

The Age, 10/9/2007, p. B1

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