A lawsuit involving an unsettled area of the law, where changes in technology have blurred the line between expectations of personal privacy and companies’ rights to monitor equipment, could help set a precedent for dealing with personal eMail at work, the New York Times reports. Generally, courts have found that employers can monitor employees’ eMail communications on company computers. But the courts also have recognized greater privacy protection for eMail messages sent using personal, web-based eMail accounts. "This case raises a lot of new issues that reflect the changing place of eMail in the work place," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The case involves Scott Sidell, who sued the company that fired him after learning the firm was reading his personal Yahoo eMail messages after he had left. In a lawsuit he filed in May against Structured Settlement Investments, Sidell claims that executives at the company went so far as to read eMail messages he had sent to his lawyers discussing his strategy for winning an arbitration claim over his lost job. Companies often adopt policies explicitly stating that everything an employee does on a computer provided by the employer is subject to monitoring. But Sidell was no longer an employee when his mail supposedly was read. In his complaint, he said that when he returned to his office after he was fired, he might not have signed out of his Yahoo account. A feature of the account could have allowed anyone using his computer to access his eMail messages for up to two weeks…

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