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E-mail policy dos and don'ts

Cyber lawyer Scott Nathan and The ePolicy Institute have some advice on putting together a company e-mail and IM policy.

At TechTarget's recent CIO Conference, cyber law expert Scott Nathan and The ePolicy Institute offered some advice for IT executives looking to create e-mail and IM policies within their organizations. Click here to read why Nathan thinks it's so important for CIOs to get cracking on such a policy if they haven't already.


  • Establish comprehensive, written e-mail and IM policies.

  • Educate all employees about risks and compliance.

  • Stress that the e-mail and IM systems are business tools. Spell out what is – and what is not – considered appropriate business communication.

  • Spell out exactly how much personal e-mail and IM use (if any) is acceptable.

  • Recap your discrimination and sexual harassment policies.

  • Have all employees sign and date a copy of each policy.

  • Incorporate written policies in employee handbook and new hire orientation materials.


  • Address ownership issues and privacy expectations.

  • Tell employees if management monitors e-mail and IM.

  • Support e-mail and IM policies with content rules and language guidelines.

  • Establish netiquette policies for senders and receivers.

  • Implement e-mail and IM retention/deletion strategies.

  • Establish e-mail and IM security policies.

  • Install policy-based content filtering software to monitor and block e-mail and IM that violates policies or regulatory rules.


  • Expect employees to train themselves. Make them aware of rights, risks, responsibilities and repercussions.

  • Create separate policies for executives or managers.

  • Forget your international associates and laws governing e-mail/monitoring abroad.

  • Assign one individual the responsibility of single-handedly enforcing your organization's IM and e-mail policies.

  • Allow employees to dismiss the organization's IM and e-mail policies as insignificant or unenforceable.

Source: The ePolicy Institute

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