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Who Owns Your Email?

Updated on March 26, 2011

Freedom of Speech?....well....

Professor William Cronon from the University of Wisconsin has become the target of an open records request by State Republicans due to his scathing criticism in the New York Times of Governor Walkers new law regarding union employees collective bargaining rights.

In his article Prof. Cronon cites Wisconsin's political history, which for quite a time was basically Republican. He discusses the GOP's demonizing of government at all levels which he states has become a "reflective impulse" for conservatives. (I have noticed this as well)

He gives a history of the strides unions made in Wisconsin with predominant backing being made by the Republicans. Gov. Walker has sadly, divided a state that hasn't seen this kind of political division in about 40 years.

However, it is probably the comparison of Walker to McCarthy (another Republican) that truly irritated the GOP. Although Cronon made certain to state that Walker is no McCarthy, he did say both men were aggressive, with an air of self-certainty and indifference to contrary views.

I imagine the GOP got together and said "What can we do to this little geek now that he has slandered our man? How dare he state his opinion against us in a public venue. Lets get him on something, anything, rip him apart, air his dirty laundry...hey, we have an idea..."

Now the Email Issue...

We'll crack open his email account and see what's in there that can implicate him in something, anything.

So is that possible? Can the GOP just bust into the man's email? Well according to the Republicans, sure, why not? They claim that since Professor Cronon works for the University of Wisconsin which is state owned, his emails belong to, you guessed it, the State of Wisconsin and are therefore government property.

Scared yet?

Wisconsin's GOP executive director Mark Jefferson apparently defends the GOP's open records request and true to Republican spin, claims that a concerted effort is being made to intimidate them from lawfully  - he said that - lawfully seeking information, citing Wisconsin’s Open Records Law.  He requested copies of all emails sent from Professor Cronon’s university account after 1 January 2011 containing keywords such as “Republican”, “Scott Walker”, “collective bargaining”, “rally” and “union”.   Gee, think he was looking for something specific?

Professor Cronon alleges that the state Republican Party hopes to find evidence of using  these resources against the Universities policies which are "to support the nomination of any person for political office or to influence a vote in any election or referendum”. in an effort to discredit his arguments.  I would think this would be obvious.

Since the good Professor had the nerve to print something the GOP didn't like they decided that now any emails sent from the University is owned by the government of that state. Which would and should, frighten the Professors at ALL state run universities. Now the GOP has opened a new can of worms that make Professors all over our country wonder, are my emails government owned?

Universities are not the only ones with emailing rules.  Your corporation may have them as well. In 2007 the NY Times reported:

"The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employers have the right to prohibit workers from using the company’s e-mail system to send out union-related messages, a decision that could hamper communications between labor unions and their membership".

You would be surprised how many rules there are, for instance when you checked that little box next to your providers TOS (Terms of Service), you didn't read that 90 page contract did you? Don't feel badly, no one does. So you truly do not know what your rights are to your email account or what their rights are to your email account.

Hey, Get off of my Cloud

Ever hear of Cloud? You are using what tech companies have long called "cloud computing" it is when people work and store information on the Internet. And you would be surprised how your cloud can be floating out there in cyber space for anyone to access or use against you.

Remember those little TOS agreements I mentioned? Harry Lewis, a computer science professor at Harvard, says what's in those agreements may turn out to be no laughing matter. He warns that most online companies reserve the right to shut users down if they are accused of storing something illegal, whether or not the accusation is justified.

Doesn't that sound like THEY own your email?

And what about that company email? If you leave the company what happens to that email account you were assigned? All those sent messages that are "out there" and incidently, "in there". In the computers hard drive, forever and ever. You thought you deleted it but it will live forever in the heart of your Apple or Dell or Sony.

So will every website you frequented illegally while at work. While on company time. Certain common programs on the computer automatically keep a log of what the user does. Your browser creates a "history file" that keeps a record of the Web sites the user visits. There is also a cache file that sometimes even keeps copies of the pictures that have been downloaded. This is information that can be used against you.

Keep it Private!

A little suggestion. If you have a company email, keep it for company correspondence only. Your private email should not even be accessed at work. Wait until you get home to check your email or check it before you leave the house for anything important.

I don't care how bored you are do not "search" the latest singles sites or the One day sale at Macy's. Not on corporate time.

Fortunately for Professor Cronon, he never used his University account for personal correspondence. So even if the Wisconsin Republicans decide that it is not okay for someone to publicly view their opinions against them but it is okay for them to then attempt to find some information that they can use against him, it won't matter to the good Professor as he was already smarter than that. But that is not the point.

The point is to be aware and understand that whatever you do on the Internet, can be accessed by those who want to know.  And you may not even know who they are. 

Be constantly aware, the Internet is not private.  It is a public, international, world wide web and we are just the little flies that have been caught in it. 


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    • manthy profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama,USA

      You got a up and awesome from me for this amazing hub.

      Keep up the good work

    • Maggie-May profile image

      Nadine M AuCoin 

      7 years ago from the Island of Cape Breton to the Eastern Shores near Halifax, NS

      Hi there Moonchild60, great hub...I came by to see where you have been and what you are up to,..I hope all is well with you--haven't seen you around in so long---I've been so wrapped up in my own things that I have neglected you and ohters..I'v a week off coming so I hope to see you around, Take care my friend, MM

    • Moonchild60 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hello Astra - Thank you for taking the time to read my hub. I worry about the very idea of the government being way too interested, but then sometimes I think really? They want to attempt to track over 300 million people? I think it is really a small pool they are interested in and for varying reasons. At this particular juncture those we have to worry about are the ones who want our money and will deluge us with spam and advertisements and even phone calls on both land lines and cell phones. They all communicate with each other and getting to know us and our interests is big money. I think the government is interested to a lesser degree and focuses on threats, sociopaths, underground nonsense. Fear is constantly being peddled in this country. It is used for control. It is more often done en masse via news media and other forms of media to "get the word out". Our government does see the masses as by and large ignorant and uneducated sheeple being the majority therby making their tactics quite successful. Take Care Astra - Hope to see you again soon!

    • Astra Nomik profile image

      Cathy Nerujen 

      7 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

      Some people claim nothing is private on the internet any more. That is because many Govts secretly want to own and control the Internet. And have access to everyone's information. But don't Govts keep things on computers too.

      The agenda is a very real subject. The Govts want to open your email and look inside them... that is pretty sad.

      Someone is peddling Fear, and it is wrong. I don't believe all of it. Interesting hub. Thank you for this. Some interesting comments too.

    • Moonchild60 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hello James! Thank you for coming by and reading my article. I do love feedback from you in particular. Yes, you are correct many have lost their jobs for their "opinions" stated in the privacy of their own homes. I do not believe employers have the right to do that and that is something that bothers me. I think the only time that is acceptable is if the comment expresses a desire to harm person(s) on the job.

      The FBI rifling through your files? That is so frightening. Mostly because people do exactly what they did do, misinterpret something that was simply an exaggeration due to anger or frustration. That had to be an incredibly difficult time for you! I wish I could say people accessing porn a great deal at work is shocking, but...

      It seems to me nothing is private anymore. I find I feel a strong need to burn things in my fireplace, as I don't even trust shredding them.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      This is surely not only an issue raised by actions of Republicans. People of all political persuasions have gotten involved in poking into people's private correspondence; or had theirs poked into. The question here is did he do it on State time? Was he being paid by taxpayers at the times he was making purely political statements? Or did he do it at home, or on his private time?

      Hundreds of Americans have lost their jobs for posting articles or posts on their Facebook while in the privacy of their own homes that they oppose so-called gay marriage.

      When the Payne Stewart Plane Crash happened to my company, I learned a lot about "privacy." The FBI spent months and searched through not only every email written by each of my employees, but also all web sites visited (it ends up a lot of porno was being viewed on the job unbeknownst to me).

      The FBI deposed dozens of my employees about emails they wrote to their wives or girlfriends or just acquaintances. To give one example, the guy in charge of keeping records for pilots sent his wife an email that said "None of our pilots can do basic math! Their paperwork is ALWAYS [emphasis added] wrong!" Of course, that was not true. He was upset at mistakes in their paperwork that were unusually high that particular morning. He ended up on the witness stand in federal court, as did I, being asked "If none of your pilots could do basic math and always produced faulty paperwork, why did you not replace them with competent employees?"

      Excellent article though. I agree that this is scary territory for all of us. I do not think anything done on a computer is truly private. We may have to get used to that.

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      7 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      Yaaay! You are welcome. Please don't have nightmares about emails. Laws do protect us too. Cheers!

    • Moonchild60 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Ummm....Wow....I had not even thought about that Cheeky Girl. But I love the idea immensely. You are right of course. If they are saying he "works for the state" so that is government property, than so is theirs. I love it. I had not thought of this!! Thank you SO MUCH for coming by and posting here.

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      7 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      If the Professor should have his emails read or able to be opened and read by politicians - based on your information above - then the politicians who are trying to be a thorn in his side know that the very same arguement applies to them. They are all public servants, and your taxes pay their wages. So in other words, you the American tax Payer and even the good Professor can have access to all their juicy emails! LOL!

      Problem solved.

      Oh, I am not Democrat or Republican. I reside happily in the UK or British Isles. Great hub.

    • Moonchild60 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Dramatis personae - Your name in itself sounds dramatic. Perhaps it is supposed to. Yes, I am now reading an article in Time magazine about Everything about you is being tracked and your personal data is for sale to whomever needs it. The story just gets worse and worse. You are welcome!!

    • dramatis personae profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      I never knew all of this...........I agree that big brother should stay off our emails, but it's probably easier than snooping in our snail wonder big brother loves this form of communication.....thanks for the info

    • Moonchild60 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Harlan - That truly is scary. Mainly because if that is the case, I wonder how far that will go. We know we Americans never think beyond what is "awesome", "easy" and beyond our realm of ever imagining could be impossible just blows us away so we never, ever think about the consequences or potential risks. We jump in with both feet. In some aspects of life it is great to have that mentality but not this one. Big brother is already watching and while we may be intelligent enough to continuously check outside to see whats going on, what good is that if we are leaving the front door wide open?

    • Harlan Colt profile image

      Harlan Colt 

      7 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

      Awesome info. I have always suspected such things, if you are not using an alias, you need to consider it.

      Also, something I recently heard on the grapevine, is in the future you will no longer BUY software from BestBuy and install it on your computer. No, No, the software will be in the cloud and you will run it from THEIR computer over the internet to yours. Thus if you want to use Photoshop, you will use it online. When you log off the program - it will no longer be on your computer.

      I can see big companies doing this because it prevents people from making or using illegal copies of software. It also protects consumer companies from legal action if one of their employees had made an illegal copy or use at work.

      However, I am not a fan of the idea. I want to own my own copy on my own machine and unplug from online if I want to. If you think about it, they could control your whole life from the internet.

      YOU MUST work and pay the internet bill, or else you can't go shopping, you can't buy or sell anything because its all online. Interesting.... thought.

      Good hub

      - Harlan

    • Green Lotus profile image


      7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      This is the scary truth and you've told it so well. No one's e-mail is safe. I'm sure unscrupulous companies, parties and individuals hire hackers to get in if other methods fail. Anyone who sends sensitive material unencrypted is taking a chance, although I wouldn't be surprised if even those e-mails could be decoded. Rated up, useful and awesome!

    • Wrath Warbone profile image

      Terry Chestnutt 

      7 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      They might find out, the way people are talking. well, I hope we all learn better ways but it usually doesn't happen. Time will tell. Thanks.

    • Moonchild60 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Sometimes I think they become bolder to push the envelope, test the waters, see how far they can go and get away with it, much like children. Who is going to stop them? In very many ways they are completely clueless. This is a young, naive country. They've still a great deal to learn.

    • Wrath Warbone profile image

      Terry Chestnutt 

      7 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      Some of them have become very bold, as you point out. It makes me wonder what they have planned for us when we jump at them. I have long wondered why are they antagonising the people, just daring us to do anything about it. I suppose it is typical of tyrants who always think they can't be stopped by anyone. Then the people rise up and crush them in a few weeks, much to their surprise. It has happened like that a hundred times or more all over the world before, as explained in many history books, but they make the same mistake anyway. When they run off to China or Russia or Sudi Arabia thinking they will find partying in exclusive manions they will instead find a bullet in the back of their heads from those who bought them and have no respect for such people all along. They are truly clueless.

    • Moonchild60 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      To tell you the truth Wrath - Some of the things I have been learning lately about our government and what truly goes on are starting to scare the hell out of me. Additionally, some politicians are not all that discriminate about what they say or do anymore (I don't mean the sexual escapades, I could care less what or who they 'do') I mean for example, when the speaker for the Republicans came out and made it clear that they did not care about extending unemployment or any thing else for that matter but making sure the rich kept their tax cuts, I was shocked he would say that out loud and to the Press no less. It was like saying 'We don't care how those poor eat or pay their bills unless the rich continue to keep their money' I thought 'Wow, there was a time they wouldn't dare show their hand like that' and now, they just don't give a damn. I am not sure if it is good to see them being honest or I preferred the secrets and lies. And now they out and out said 'talk against us and we will attempt to destroy you'. I think maybe ignorance is bliss. Hard to tell these days...

    • Wrath Warbone profile image

      Terry Chestnutt 

      7 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      Yes, you are right. It could bite you in the back if you are not selective in what goes out in your email. It might hurt your loved one too, possibly. You are smart to exercise discretion. I was just taking a poke at the kind of politics I prefer to speak up about, although it will have little effect in practicle terms. But I do feel strongly about the loss of personal and political rights and liberites we are being subjected to latley. I hope we can stop it from going to far, if it hasn't already.

    • Moonchild60 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Wrath - I concur. And it IS frightening. I know it is making me wonder how cautious I should really be and what could come back to haunt me one day. Great...

    • Wrath Warbone profile image

      Terry Chestnutt 

      7 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      Scary. Thanks for the headsup. If they want to know what I think, here is something for them to use against me. I think it stinks.

    • Moonchild60 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hello Frog Prince - Thank you for being my first 'visitor'. Absolutely. We are under the impression that this is private and we have rights. I think that is exactly how it should be and there needs to be a law saying so. So obvious abuses will not be made. Thank you very much for your nice compliment!!

      Hi Tom! - Good to see you! How desperately I wish I were surprised and shocked, but I am not. It is getting out of hand and it is incredibly frightening particularly because there is no way of knowing how far this is going to go before we have no guarantee of privacy at all.

    • justom profile image


      7 years ago from 41042

      TSA agents are stopping reporters that are known, so called, subversives at airports and downloading ALL the info on their computers sometimes confiscating the computer and in some cases the computers were never returned. This country is totally out of hand when it comes to privacy and opposing ideas. Great hub! Peace!! Tom

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 

      7 years ago from Arlington, TX

      No matter who you are, yoiur private e-mail should remain private.

      Good writing and analysis. Less Big Brother, not more.

      The Frog


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