Phone Hacking, Corporate Responsibility and Employee Accountability

The UK has been awash with scandal upon scandal in recent months. Individuals and organisations who we are supposed to trust have abuse their positions and the circumstances available to them. Is this to be the century of corruption? The politicians led the way with the expenses scandal,  immediately followed by questionable banking practices which brought the world to the brink of bankruptcy. Now in our latest installment of the “people doing what they really shouldn’t” saga, we have once reputable press organisations hacking into the phones of, well, pretty much everyone.

The world needs a double dose of the medicine that is corporate responsibility and employee accountability.   Whether or not the chiefs at the head of these corporate tribes were aware of the activities of their employees, ultimately they have a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent this kind of unacceptable behaviour occurring. Failure to do so is a slippery slope which rapidly evolves from the occasional cheeky rogue, to an inherent culture of wide spread wrong doing. Individuals should not be given a shield of plausible deniability or proclamation of ignorance. Each and every individual should be liable to take responsibility for their actions.  Chiefs have a responsibility to foster and enforce an ethical culture through the correct provision of training and providing the right tools for employees to adopt that ethical behaviour.

Just this week we have learned that News International were in fact in possession of emails which were withheld from the police in an attempt to control possible damage from implication of law breaking. Although possible, it’s difficult to release information in  an email without actually thinking about it’s content before clicking send. Much more difficult than giving the go ahead to do something in the spur of the moment over the phone. Information created or received by an organisation should be treated with the respect it deserves, but with the casual use of email in day to day life, it’s easy for the lines to blur. People generally use their work email accounts for general informal internal communications, even external at times.  When wrong doing is suspected, the legal defence of “that email was sent in this context” is used all to often.

As an organisation, one line of defence to this legal minefield is.. yes.. you have guessed it.. email labelling.  Forcing users (whether employees, directors or other execs) to select an appropriate label before sending an email builds not only awareness of company policies, but also re-enforces a culture of employee accountability.  Investment in an email labelling tool, could in the long run save your organisation millions or may even save it from the recently bloodied axe, which took out News of the World in one fell swoop. Furthermore, there are no longer any excuses on cost. You can do this for free.  Although you don’t get all the benefits of the paid version of Boldon James’ Email Classifier, the FreeMark version of Classifier allows you to do exactly that, label emails. ITS FREE,  the clue is in the name – FreeMark.  If you want to learn more about the FreeMark initiative, please visit www.freemarkinitiative.com

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