But Gardner contends the financial benefits of AltaVista’s search software overshadow any concerns about offending employees who aren’t supposed to be storing personal information on corporate property in the first place.
“For every person that gets a little embarrassed because some personal information gets passed around the office, there are going to be more people who are able to find important information that helps them close a sale with an important customer or build a better mousetrap,” Gardner said.
Having a central index, however, could place a greater legal burden on employers, Williams said. For instance, an employee alleging harassment by another co-worker could demand an employer search for incriminating evidence in e-mail accounts and PC hard drives.
And creating a central index isn’t practical for most companies concerned about protecting confidential information, said John Garber, chief strategic officer for Cryptek Secure Communications in Chantilly, Virginia.
“This is white-tower stuff. There probably isn’t a company with more than 40 employees where all the employees should be entitled to see everything in a company’s computers.”