Slack updates privacy policy: Employers can read ‘private’ DMs without telling workers

Digital technology makes it easy for your employer to monitor everything you do — the email, instant messages or texts you send and receive — on any company-provided digital devices or work platforms.

Even so, it’s easy to see how employees could assume — mistakenly — that by using Slack, the popular instant-messaging workplace collaboration tool, their direct messages (DMs) are limited to those in their small user group.

The company, based in San Francisco, says more than 6 million U.S. workers use its service every day.

Slack, which stands for “Searchable Log of All Conversations and Knowledge” was originally a way for team members to communicate, but it has “expanded to become a more social platform as well,” as noted in a recent news report in the Daily Mail. Slack has chat rooms (called channels) and users can include emojis in their messages to express reactions.

“Slack is a work collaboration tool, plain and simple,” said attorney Bradley Shear, founder of Digital Armour, a privacy consulting service based in Bethesda, Maryland. “It’s definitely not a watercooler area or any type of place where you should be saying inappropriate things – whether it’s about your boss or other people, or talking about politics, religion or anything of that nature. Slack is something that should only be used specifically for productivity and work purposes.”

Heads Up: Slack is changing its privacy policy

Under the updated policy, which starts on April 20, compliance reports are being discontinued and the downloading options expanded.

Under the updated policy, which starts on April 20, compliance reports are being discontinued and the downloading options expanded.

Since 2014, Slack customers who bought its premium “Plus” plan have been able to download and read communications transmitted via Slack through what’s called a “Compliance Export.” This cannot be done in real time, but the archive downloaded can go back to when that Slack group was created. When an export is done, employees in that Slack group are automatically notified that the boss is watching.

Under the updated policy, which starts on April 20, compliance reports are being discontinued and the downloading options expanded. According to the Slack website:

  • All slack workplace owners will be able to export and download “all public channel data: messages and links to files included.”
  • Those who buy the Plus plan can request access to “a self-service export tool” to download “all data from their workspace.” This includes “content from public and private channels and direct messages.”
  • Workspace owners who use the free and standard plans can use this export tool, under limited circumstances. They must first provide a valid legal process, consent of the members (employees) and a requirement or right under applicable laws.
  • Automatic notices to employees will be discontinued. The employer will now decide whether users will be told their conversations are being exported.

Slack says its policy changes are related to the pending implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which takes effect on May 25. This is an attempt “to achieve a balance across regulatory requirements, user expectations and customer needs,” the company said in a statement to NBC News BETTER.

 

 

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