Can My Employer Read My Slack Messages in 2019?

January 23, 2019

Slack is an extremely popular instant messaging application, ideal for the workplace. The program allows for easy organization of threads and message groups, quick collaboration on team projects, document sharing, private messaging and many more features. However, a recent change to the privacy policy will allow employers to access and read employees’ private messages easily without notifying employees.

Why the Change?

The new Slack privacy policy update includes new functions for the Enterprise Grid and Premium tiers of the Slack service; employers who pay for these service tiers can now request access to a self-service export tool to download all available data from a workspace. This includes all content from public and private messages across all Slack channels.

Before this update Slack only allowed employers to access private message data through a compliance export. The new self-service tool expands the functionality of these compliance exports, making it simple for an employer to download and access all data from a workspace regardless of privacy settings.

Companies that only use the Free or Standard tiers of slack will not feature this update, but administrators can still request access to private message data with valid legal grounds for doing so under all applicable laws.

How Does This Change Affect Employees?

Employees who keep their private messages professional and work-related likely have no reason to worry about this new change in Slack policy. However, employees who spend too much time on personal conversations instead of working, and those who send harassing, sexually suggestive, or offensive messages to other employees will likely face swifter disciplinary action after this change.

It is also important to note that even seemingly harmless comments and conversations could lead to problems in the workplace. Because your employer can easily access your private message data after this privacy update, it is always best to ensure you do not send any messages you would not want your employer to see.

Best Practices for Workplace Instant-Messaging Applications

While employees who do not engage in unethical or unprofessional private conversations at work largely have nothing to fear from the new Slack change, it can still be unsettling to know your employer can access your private message data at any time with relative ease. If you are worried your instant message conversations with coworkers could become a problem in the future, a few best practices will help protect you.

  • Keep conversations professional. You may form close personal relationships with coworkers over time, but it is always best to save non-work-related conversations for personal time or breaks. When you use instant messaging at work, make sure your conversations are on-task and related to your job duties.
  • Avoid emotional and impassioned language. It is very easy for someone to take a typed message out of context and misconstrue the meaning behind the message. Try to keep your workplace instant messages unambiguous, concise, and dispassionate.
  • Use “Away” and “Busy” status tools and respect other employees’ status displays. If another employee marks him or herself as “Busy,” treat that the same way as if he or she was on a phone call or in a meeting and do not send a message until his or her status changes to Available.
  • Follow your company policy. Ultimately, your employer likely has a policy in place for workplace instant messaging and you should always follow this policy carefully. If your employer prohibits sharing confidential information over private messages, do not assume your employer cannot find such a message if you ignore this policy; doing so could jeopardize your employment.
  • Only use instant messages when necessary. Instant messages can help coworkers collaborate and answer questions quickly. Try to avoid sending conversational and personal messages as a rule.

The new Slack change may seem intrusive to some employees, but the reality is that if your employer pays for the Slack service, the employer has the right to take full advantage of the features of the service and ensure you are performing your job duties and staying on-task. If you’ve been terminated due to your slack messages or have questions as to whether your employee rights have been violated, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation. Our experienced Tampa employment attorney will be able to answer your legal questions and address concerns you have in seeking legal counsel.

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