Privacy of Employee Electronic Files

Title:  Privacy of Employee Electronic Files
Effective Date:

Issuing Authority:  Information Technology
Program Coordinators:  Director of IT and Libraries
Last Updated:

All information on St. Olaf servers, desktop computers or on computer storage medias, including electronic mail, is considered college property. While Information Technology (IT) makes every reasonable effort to ensure the security of electronic files, employees should be aware of the following:

  • Any individual using the St. Olaf College systems and networks from any computer automatically consents to the monitoring of their activities in the course of systems maintenance or security related investigations. In addition, in order to conduct the College’s business and assure compliance with College policies and the law, the College many need to monitor or review electronically stored information. If, in the course of such monitoring, systems personnel reveal possible evidence of criminal activity or College policy violations, systems personnel may provide the evidence of such monitoring to the College or law enforcement officials.
  • Select employees of IT have access to all information stored on the St. Olaf servers. Those employees may include the managers of the campus servers maintained by IT and/or IT student workers whose responsibilities are associated with the servers. Such access is necessary in order for IT employees to perform their duties, and is normally exercised upon the request of the account owner, in cases of systems security and performance problems, upon presentation of warrants, subpoenas, or court orders, or upon the request of an individual’s supervisor. Supervisors requesting access to an employee’s computer files must first consult with the Human Resources Office and must present a valid work-related issue or need or convincing evidence of probable cause related to a violation of federal or state regulations or College policies before IT staff will access files.
  • Every electronic file and e-mail message stored on the St. Olaf servers are backed up and, therefore, are reproducible and may be subpoenaed in the event of a court case. Users should be aware of this when creating files and e-mail messages intended for individuals both on and off campus.
  • E-mail correspondence should not be considered private. The individual to whom one sends an e-mail message may allow another person to access the mail message or may forward it to others. In addition, while St. Olaf makes every effort to ensure the security of e-mail messages routed on the College network, e-mail messages sent via the Internet are not guaranteed that same level of security and privacy.
  • Personal files and e-mail stored by employees on their college provided desktop computer or on the St. Olaf servers should not be considered private. In the course of routine maintenance, upon the request of the immediate supervisor, or upon the presentation of warrants, subpoenas, and court orders personal files may be accessed by IT staff.
  • Information posted to the World Wide Web is not private and in most cases is readable by other individuals around the world. While it is possible to restrict direct access to on-campus users only, this does not preclude wider distribution of materials. Users should consider carefully the content and nature of materials posted to the Web in light of these realities.

Entering computer accounts or reading electronic files without proper authorization is considered misuse of computers. Individuals suspected of accessing others’ files without permission will be referred to the appropriate office for action. Here is the College’s policy statement on the Acceptable Use of Technology.