Paul Shin Devine, the former Apple manager who is facing charges of wire fraud used his company computer to provide information about pricing, product specifications and sales forecasts for products not yet released and allegedly profited some $1 million in kickbacks. Apparently the use of so-called freemail Hotmail and Gmail accounts didn’t hide from prosecutors the cached messages confirming his fraud. Even the use of the Microsoft Entourage email client for Mac provided the necessary details about payments and the confidential information he had stolen from his employer.

He was aware of the company’s practices of scanning outbound message flows for information on forecasts, costs and new model information and asked one conspirator in 2008 to avoid using that email to escape IT detection.

This raises the whole question of whether an employer can also investigate an employee’s use of free webmail services on the company computer. To me, webmail is web browsing so it is like perusing what the employee is browsing, and therefore the employee has no privacy. The company has an interest in what you’re browsing since they can be liable for endorsing a hostile work environment if employee’s are always watching porn, or highly political sites, or terrorist websites.

In fact, I would think that many productivity-minded employers are considering the blocking of access to leading time-suck websites: porn, facebook, gmail, hotmail and even

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