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E-mail use and privacy on campus

August 17, 2010

Most of us use electronic mail, or e-mail, regularly in our day-to-day jobs at the university. And, as public employees using state resources (just like at many private companies), most things we do on a CSU-issued computer -- in or out of the office -- can be subject to internal and external disclosure.

Prudence and discretion

Colorado State University permits incidental personal use of e-mail and its incremental cost is essentially zero. As a general matter, purely personal, non-work related e-mails will not be subject to disclosure under the Colorado Open Records Act. Nonetheless, personal use of university e-mail services must be done with prudence and discretion.

As a matter of course, the university generally treats individuals' e-mails as private and secure. When the university receives a subpoena, court order, or an open records act request for employees’ e-mails, the university will only release responsive documentation after legal review from the Office of General Counsel and upon notice to the affected employees.

Public records and confidentiality

Following is a summary for Colorado State University employees of key points to be aware of and remember from the university e-mail policy.

  • E-mail messages are subject to many laws such as the Colorado Open Records Act, the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act, and the Colorado State Archives & Public Records Act.
  • Under the Colorado Open Records Act, electronic files are treated the same as paper files.
  • Your e-mails may be considered public records and may be subject to inspection.
  • Confidentiality of e-mail message content cannot be guaranteed (i.e., copies can be forwarded to others electronically or on paper, etc.).
  • The contents of e-mail messages are not routinely monitored by the university.
  • The university may monitor e-mail where required to prevent the continued use of e-mail messages for illegal purposes or to meet externally imposed legal requirements. 

University privilege

  • Access to e-mail at CSU is a privilege and must be treated as such.
  • Abuse of privileges can be a matter of legal action or official campus disciplinary procedures.
  • An individual's privilege of access may be suspended in a case where an inappropriate use severely impacts performance or security of university services. 
  • Acceptable use of e-mail is based on common sense, common decency, and civility.

Unacceptable use of e-mail

  • Misrepresentation of identity or source.
  • Using e-mail for any purpose that violates federal or state laws.
  • Using university e-mail for commercial purposes.
  • Sending patently harassing, intimidating, abusive, or offensive material to or about others.
  • Intercepting, disrupting, or altering electronic communications.
  • Using the identity and password of someone else for access.
  • Causing congestion on the network by such things as the propagation of "chain letters" or "broadcasting" inappropriate messages to lists or individuals.
  • Reproducing or distributing copyrighted materials without appropriate authorization.
  • Accessing, copying or modifying e-mail or other files without authorization.
  • Interfering with or disrupting the work of another, such as through propagation of computer worms or viruses and/or unauthorized entry to computing and networking resources or facilities.

Read the full Colorado State University E-mail Policy & Information.

More on the Colorado State University Information Technology Executive Committee.


Contact: Patrick J. Burns
E-mail: Patrick.Burns@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-1833