Nov 22, 2009

Is Corporate E-mail Private E-Mail?

In my view, it's still too early to say much about the vast amount of information that has become public over the past few days in what is being called ClimateGate or CRUgate. The significance of these documents will, one hopes, become clearer with time. [see & search them here]

But there is one point about which we should not be confused. Contrary to the opening line of this news story, these are NOT private e-mails. E-mail messages sent at the place of one's employment, pertaining to one's on-the-job responsibilities, belong to one's employer.

Dr. Kevin Trenberth tells this reporter, "I personally feel violated."

Tough luck. As an employee of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research - which is funded by public dollars and is, one would expect, subject to Freedom of Information legislation - what Prof. Trenberth does in the course of his employment is NOT his own private business.

Full Disclaimer:
So far, no one - on any side of this issue - has declared any of these documents to be fake. But since forgeries aren't unknown, it's appropriate to tread carefully. Fictional e-mails could be mixed in with real messages.

We should also take note of the significant chronological gaps in these documents. This isn't the entire record of e-mail sent and received by certain people, but a partial one. According to what criteria was this selection made? By whom? What agenda might be motivating this person(s)? If we could access the entire record, would the picture that is currently emerging differ significantly? How?