Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Does the e-mail address that you use at work or school actually belong to you?

Don’t you love it when these thoughts of the day just pop up! The essence of what I am actually trying to ask here is: Does the email account or email address that was given to you at school, work, or in an organization actually belong to you? I am fairly certain that if I had a room full of people and I asked this question, 99% of the people have probably never thought about that question, let alone ever think about someone ever asking them this question Smile.  The answer might disturb you but my goal is not to trouble you with the answer. My goal is to make you aware. E-mail is one of the things that we all take for granted every single day so it is sometimes necessary to go back and really think about the issues surrounding this fantastic service….

The Question: Does the e-mail address that you use at work or school actually belong to you?
The Answer: Absolutely not.

An e-mail account assigned to you by an organization does not belong to you and you are most certainly not entitled to having one. It, and almost all of the data inside of that account, belongs to the organization. Are you with me so far? Excellent. It is time to address some additional questions…

The next thing to think about is: will the organization delete your email account when you are no longer a part of the organization? This all depends on the organization’s policies but in most cases the answer is yes. In any case where you leave an organization you must count on your e-mail accounts assigned to you including all data that resides inside that account can/will be deleted – permanently. Here are some examples of cases where one of the e-mail accounts that has been assigned to you could be deleted:

  • Work or Business: If you leave a company willingly, or are let go from that company, count on that e-mail address and all of the data inside of it permanently deleted or archived. If you need to recover data from that e-mail account, keep in mind that since the e-mail account didn’t truly belong to you in the first place there is no obligation from that company to help you recover data from it. Plus, there is a certain e-mail etiquette with business e-mail accounts – You are expected to conduct business with an email account given to you by a business. It is not for personal use so don’t use it like it is your own personal e-mail account! (Shopping and Coupon ad emails are a big no-no.)
  • Internet Service Provider: Many internet service providers (ISP) will grant you an email address, such as Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon. But when you shut off your internet service and stop paying them, the email addresses assigned to you are permanently deleted. And when an ISP deletes an email account, there is no such things as ‘data recovery’…
  • School or College: Unless there is a clause in the enrollment agreement somewhere that says your student email address will remain in existence for an eternity, count on your e-mail account being deleted after a certain period of time when you graduate or stop taking classes.
  • Organizations: Do not count on your email account remaining intact after you are no longer affiliated with an organization such as a non-profit. Remember the e-mail etiquette with organizations as well.

With all of this said, do you have a backup plan in case an assigned e-mail account is no longer available? Better yet, do you have a personal e-mail address set up? I highly recommend that you set up a personal e-mail account from Google (Gmail), Microsoft (Windows Live Mail / Hotmail), Yahoo (Yahoo! Mail), or any of the other free e-mail account providers and use it outside of an organization. The free e-mail providers really do provide a great service and most have other services tied-in with their free e-mail such as online file storage or social applications.

So I hope that I have helped you come back to reality regarding assigned e-mail accounts. You never know when this information becomes handy. Let a friend know this information too. Cheers!

-Joe