Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Eavesdropping in the office....

Last week I started to talk about eavesdropping in the office...but maybe it's time to have it's own blog article...

There are many types of eavesdropping in the office. One could occur when someone overhears your personal phone conversation with a family member or friend. Another could occur when two colleagues are talking about a third worker, a client, or a potential deal and are overheard by a third party. Yet another could occur when a coworker is talking to a client and you overhear this conversation.

All of these have great potential conflicts for Human Resources. In places like New York City where space is at a premium so offices are abandoned in lieu of cubes, people's phone conversations as well as conversations with other works can be easily overheard.

And these have implications beyond privacy issues. If an investment banker is talking about a deal with Material Non-Public Information (MNPI) and another employee eavesdrops on this and uses that information in their personal or professional life in an unethical way, this could lead to serious problems for a company.

Feelings get hurt or rumors get started when certain conversations are overheard. Client's personal information can get into the wrong hands. In medical organizations, HIPPA violations can occur when this happens. And conversations in a public place like an elevator can lead to eavesdropping by competitors.

Ladies Home Journal says to always watch what you're saying because you NEVER know who's listening and gives a few examples: click here

Almost three years ago a company named "Babble" came out with a product to help drown out eavesdropping as reported in this old CNN piece: click here

And, lastly, the US Department of Energy has some advice on those that think they are being eavesdropped upon by a competitor: click here

The lesson here for HR is to make sure to tell your employees (and, even more importantly, practice this to the utmost) to remember that Big Brother is always listening and to mind what they say when others can be listening...

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