Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

When sending email on a company owned computer or using a company owned network, the company can watch. They can likely read your email and much more.

If I send an email on my work computer through Hotmail, will it be picked up on the server that has been set up in the office to hold all emails sent through on our "actual office computer emails' via a paying service provider?

In other words can the email I've sent be read afterwards on the office server or at the office's service provider if it has been sent through Hotmail?

The specific answer to the specific question you're asking is: No.

But that doesn't mean your email couldn't be read by your company in other ways.

In which case the answer the question you're really asking is: yes, they might be able to read the mail you sent.

When you send email using Hotmail, either through Hotmail's web interface, or when supported, through a mail program like Outlook or Outlook Express, the mail is not sent using your company's mail servers. It's sent directly to the Hotmail mail servers, and from there it moves on to its final destination.

So your company's mail servers are never involved.

But while that might give you some level of comfort, you shouldn't read too much into it. Your company could still be reading your email.

"... they could, both legally and technologically. And that's something you should be aware of."

Before I throw out the possibilities, though, I want to make something clear: I'm not saying that your company is reading your email. In fact, it's more likely that they are not. But they could, both legally and technologically. And that's something you should be aware of.

When you use a computer at your work place, that computer belongs to your company. They can do whatever they will with it. And that includes, for example, installing spyware as either software or hardware to monitor your activities. That spyware could easily be logging every website you visit, every mouse movement you make and every keystroke you type. Put that all together, and they could absolutely track what you were typing as you composed a new email when you visited Hotmail - or any email provider for that matter.

This includes the email you typed up but never sent.

What if you're using your own computer? You have a little more security, in that you can (and should) take absolute care to ensure that your machine is protected, firewalled and spyware and virus free. But that may still not be enough. For example it's quite possible that monitoring software can get installed as part of your corporate network login.

Even if your computer is clean, you're still using your company's network, and your network traffic can be monitored. Unless you're using a secure connection via HTTPS or a secure email protocol, it's trivial for your company to record all data sent to and from your computer, including any email you send.

If you use a secure connection you've made it a lot harder (though actually not impossible in a corporate environment) to monitor your traffic.

If you're truly concerned that you might be spied on, assume the worst and take the appropriate steps to protect yourself.

If you want to send something that you don't want your company to see, you simply shouldn't be doing it from their network or on their equipment. Wait 'till you get home or are somewhere else using equipment that your company has no control over.

Article C3376 - May 10, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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7 Comments
ray
October 17, 2008 11:45 AM

if i send a an inquiry using my work computer through a company's website asking a question can i be tracked..like me sending this email but giving you my personal email...can you track me and know where i am sending this from?

shelley
January 18, 2009 4:24 AM

if i use my company email on my personal laptop. and its always signed in on my personal laptop can my work see when and what time and date i opened an email even if it was already opened but i was rereading it.

stanley
July 21, 2010 6:23 AM

If i work from my personal home pc, and the company i work for wants to put the company e mail outlook express on my pc, will they have access to EVERYTHING else i do or information thats in my folders ..I wouldnt use outlook express for any of my personal mail

mark
August 13, 2010 9:16 AM

ok, so suppose my company provides a laptop and i take it home and send or receive an email over hotmail or whatever, can the company see what i have sent or received, i.e. the CONTENT of the emails?..or can they only know that i visited hotmail?

It's their copmputer and they could easily have installed monitoring software that sees everything.
Leo
14-Aug-2010

DB
March 9, 2011 8:02 AM

Can the computer staff, at work, read the e-mails that the CEO and/vice presidents send or receive?

Unless the messages themselves are encrypted, I would expect that they absolutely could.
Leo
10-Mar-2011

donna
June 3, 2011 9:54 PM

Hi if i simply just open an email from my hotmail can it be recorded on their server?
Also i can access our work email from my own laptop mailcy.....owa how can i see if they have also installed a monitoring software to other things i do on my own pc?

Mark J
June 4, 2011 12:01 AM

@Donna
If you read the article, you'll see that your company can see every keystroke you type into their computer. As for accessing your company email from your own computer, that depends on whether your company allows you to do that or not. You should ask them about this. If the people at your workplace don't have physical access to your laptop it is highly unlikely that they can install monitoring software on your computer.

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