Muffie Benson-Perella (muffie AT dealbreaker.com) is an Associate in the Investment Banking Division of a "Bulge Bracket" bank. She holds a B.A. in French and Art from Vassar College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Her regular column "Heard in the Suite" is a probing (and, ahem, fictional) weekly look into the secret lives and behind the velvet curtains of the investment banking world.
The time has come to have a serious discussion about workplace privacy. I have been shocked recently to learn that employees generally have no expectation of privacy in their workplace in the United States. Their telephone calls, conversations, personal liaisons and internet chat conversations can be monitored with impunity by corrupt, draconian (and creepy) superiors without due process, a warrant, or any kind of judicial review.
Given the kind of intimate things that often go on in the office, I think it is time to recognize that this is one of the most concerning issues of our time. I just happen to know some people personally, three friends of mine, who have been personally impacted by this issue just in the last 48 hours. Their personal, private conversation about important subjects was captured by an employer, and then maliciously reposted all over the internet for everyone to see.
Really, if some people want to know so badly about the personal lives of some other people or what they were doing last night or who they were doing it with or where and with how many other people, they should just ask rather than abuse their power to steal secret conversations and publish them.
Imagine their surprise when my father's lawyer told them that they had basically "no recourse" against their employer for invasion of privacy.
One of them was very upset and is strongly considering resigning her important executive position. You can see yourself from our chat how upset she was (after the jump).
(I have changed her name because she doesn't know I am posting this).
10:53:01 AM ohwowitsbeth: muffie.
10:53:09 AM muffiehbs05: Hey Bethy!
10:53:56 AM muffiehbs05: I just woke up!!
10:54:08 AM ohwowitsbeth: i envy you
10:54:13 AM ohwowitsbeth: i have to wake up at 8.30
10:54:20 AM ohwowitsbeth: hung over or not
10:54:22 AM ohwowitsbeth: anyway
10:54:24 AM ohwowitsbeth: um
10:54:27 AM ohwowitsbeth: here's a question
10:54:30 AM muffiehbs05: Shoot!
10:54:40 AM ohwowitsbeth: did you see carney's post from last night
10:54:43 AM ohwowitsbeth: on dealbreaker
10:54:45 AM muffiehbs05: I was supposed to get up but... I called in sick.
10:54:53 AM muffiehbs05: No, I just woke up. Let me look.
10:55:01 AM ohwowitsbeth: please do
10:55:22 AM muffiehbs05: WHAT THE HELL? You GAVE HIM OUR CHAT?
10:55:26 AM ohwowitsbeth: NO
10:55:28 AM ohwowitsbeth: jesus
10:55:42 AM ohwowitsbeth: you think i would do that?
10:55:51 AM ohwowitsbeth: he's always asking leering questions about ep
10:56:00 AM ohwowitsbeth: "is she a natural blonde"
10:56:02 AM muffiehbs05: What the hell is this?
10:56:04 AM ohwowitsbeth: "is she a natural D"
10:56:12 AM muffiehbs05: ep a natural D?
10:56:16 AM ohwowitsbeth: hah
10:56:16 AM ohwowitsbeth: i know
10:56:18 AM ohwowitsbeth: anyway
10:56:19 AM ohwowitsbeth: carney
10:56:21 AM muffiehbs05: Carney is lost. She's barely a B.
10:56:27 AM ohwowitsbeth: i guess he fucking went on my computer
10:56:36 AM ohwowitsbeth: (he sees things how he wants to see them)
10:56:44 AM ohwowitsbeth: and saw an open box
10:56:46 AM ohwowitsbeth: and couldn't help himself
10:56:55 AM muffiehbs05: He can't do that. He doesn't have a warrant or anything!
10:57:05 AM muffiehbs05: He posted the entire fucking thing! I am going to kill him.
10:57:07 AM ohwowitsbeth: i really can't believe he did this
10:57:10 AM ohwowitsbeth: yeah
10:57:32 AM ohwowitsbeth: first of all
10:57:37 AM ohwowitsbeth: that thing we offered him last saturday
10:57:41 AM ohwowitsbeth: IS OFF THE TABLE
10:57:43 AM muffiehbs05: Hold on, let me get out of bed.
10:57:58 AM muffiehbs05: You BET it is. I was really tipsy when we said that anyhow.
10:58:05 AM ohwowitsbeth: yeah
10:58:09 AM ohwowitsbeth: but we would've made good
10:58:13 AM ohwowitsbeth: we are women of our word
10:58:15 AM ohwowitsbeth: anyway
10:58:16 AM ohwowitsbeth: WTF
10:58:28 AM muffiehbs05: I'm calling my dad's attorney.
10:58:39 AM ohwowitsbeth: the jewish one? do you think ep's seen this
10:58:50 AM ohwowitsbeth: prob not, considering she doesn't read dealbreaker
10:58:52 AM ohwowitsbeth: but
10:58:57 AM muffiehbs05: Nono, I've seen him without his towel. He's definitely not jewish.
10:58:59 AM ohwowitsbeth: i could say the same thing about you! and not because i know you're episcopalian
10:58:59 AM muffiehbs05: She would have called. She reads DealBreaker, don't let her fool you. I doubt she does before noon though.
10:59:02 AM ohwowitsbeth: i think she still has a google alert set up for herself
10:59:03 AM ohwowitsbeth: yeah
10:59:15 AM ohwowitsbeth: and flipped out
10:59:22 AM muffiehbs05: He is out of the office.
10:59:35 AM muffiehbs05: Damn.
10:59:39 AM ohwowitsbeth: that's not unusual, it's a friday
10:59:39 AM ohwowitsbeth: oh
10:59:42 AM ohwowitsbeth: you meant the lawyer
10:59:44 AM muffiehbs05: Yeah.
11:00:04 AM ohwowitsbeth: i'm fuming
11:00:06 AM muffiehbs05: I am stunned. I can't believe he did that.
11:00:35 AM ohwowitsbeth: he always edits all the "bad" stuff i say about him, even though it's hilarious and the people have a right to know
11:00:39 AM ohwowitsbeth: this is a double standard!
11:00:42 AM muffiehbs05: He censors?
11:00:47 AM ohwowitsbeth: yeah he does
11:00:48 AM muffiehbs05: He never censors the stuff I write...
11:00:58 AM ohwowitsbeth: muffers
11:01:04 AM ohwowitsbeth: i won't get into it
11:01:06 AM ohwowitsbeth: but even though
11:01:12 AM ohwowitsbeth: you have no recollection of labor day weekend
11:01:14 AM ohwowitsbeth: i do
11:01:18 AM ohwowitsbeth: and i'm sure carnage does
11:01:19 AM muffiehbs05: Well, except the article about my little accident.
11:01:20 AM ohwowitsbeth: which is why
11:01:22 AM muffiehbs05: I was just saying that.
11:01:23 AM ohwowitsbeth: HE DOESN'T CENSOR YOU
11:01:29 AM ohwowitsbeth: yeah
11:01:31 AM ohwowitsbeth: lskdjflj
11:01:34 AM muffiehbs05: What are we going to do?
11:01:35 AM ohwowitsbeth: i'm all riled up
11:01:45 AM muffiehbs05: Let me call my dad's lawyer again.
11:02:25 AM muffiehbs05: I really drank too much.
11:02:54 AM muffiehbs05: I hate his damn secretary. She's so obstructive.
11:03:02 AM muffiehbs05: The word "emergency" is meaningless to her.
11:03:05 AM ohwowitsbeth: i was having vague flashbacks to the top bench in the steam room this morning on the way to work
11:03:12 AM ohwowitsbeth: i bet ep could catch us up
11:03:17 AM muffiehbs05: What about the top bench?
11:03:19 AM muffiehbs05: She's such a pride.
11:03:19 AM ohwowitsbeth: if she would leave her desk for one second
11:03:21 AM muffiehbs05: prude.
11:03:31 AM muffiehbs05: Did she leave early, or was that my imagination?
11:03:59 AM ohwowitsbeth: she left for like an hour
11:04:01 AM ohwowitsbeth: and came back
11:04:02 AM ohwowitsbeth: sketch
11:04:05 AM muffiehbs05: Then who was that other girl with the birthmark?
11:04:05 AM ohwowitsbeth: we'll have to get the details on that
11:04:13 AM ohwowitsbeth: on the back of her leg?
11:04:14 AM muffiehbs05: Do we even KNOW her?
11:04:17 AM ohwowitsbeth: ...
11:04:20 AM muffiehbs05: Yeah. You saw it too?
11:04:45 AM ohwowitsbeth: it's hard to not see something when it's up in your face like that
11:05:02 AM muffiehbs05: Oh my god, that was really too much.
11:05:22 AM ohwowitsbeth: haha
11:05:22 AM muffiehbs05: Did we go to someone's house after?
11:05:23 AM ohwowitsbeth: i know
11:05:43 AM muffiehbs05: Why do I remember a really annoying fluffy white cat?
11:06:05 AM ohwowitsbeth: mr. whiskerson!
11:06:11 AM ohwowitsbeth: i rememeber him too
11:06:15 AM muffiehbs05: Who the hell is Mr. Whiskerson?
11:06:55 AM muffiehbs05: And why were we in someone's house who owns a cat named Mr. Whiskerson?
11:07:36 AM ohwowitsbeth: the only reason i can guess is b/c of that thing w/ the person at the thing
11:07:44 AM muffiehbs05: In the place?
11:07:52 AM ohwowitsbeth: in the room
11:07:57 AM muffiehbs05: Ooooh.
11:07:59 AM ohwowitsbeth: yeah.
11:08:03 AM muffiehbs05: Bethy, what are you going to do?
11:10:41 AM ohwowitsbeth: i gues si have to go post something
11:10:50 AM muffiehbs05: You are going to go to WORK after this?
11:10:56 AM muffiehbs05: Come over here. I'll make sundays.
11:10:56 AM ohwowitsbeth: yes
11:10:59 AM ohwowitsbeth: hah
11:11:01 AM ohwowitsbeth: after work
11:11:03 AM ohwowitsbeth: i promise
11:11:07 AM ohwowitsbeth: and we'll do that fun thing
11:11:09 AM ohwowitsbeth: but listen
11:11:10 AM ohwowitsbeth: muffs
11:11:11 AM muffiehbs05: No Bethy, please? I get lonely when I stay home.
11:11:28 AM ohwowitsbeth: fine, i'll do a few posts and then i'll come over and work from your place
11:11:29 AM ohwowitsbeth: ok?
11:11:33 AM muffiehbs05: YAY!
11:11:35 AM ohwowitsbeth: ok
11:11:37 AM ohwowitsbeth: now listen
11:11:44 AM ohwowitsbeth: call your dad's lawyer again
11:12:01 AM ohwowitsbeth: ok?
11:12:06 AM muffiehbs05: Ok ok.
11:13:24 AM muffiehbs05: We need to plot how to get Carney back so come over.
11:13:46 AM ohwowitsbeth: ok let me do this post on BP and then i'll be there
11:13:49 AM ohwowitsbeth: see you soon
11:13:53 AM muffiehbs05: Bye Bethy.
11:13:59 AM ohwowitsbeth: bye muffs
I think it is pretty clear what happened. I think it is also clear that the "boss" here may be looking at a sexual harassment suit.
The time has come for this country to recognize that, given the amount of time spent in the office, workspaces have become playspaces too. We join our colleagues in their offices before going out, we sometimes come back to the office with them after going out, we talk freely with our doctors, our families, our best friends and our therapists on office phones and we chat on instant messenger clients to friends around the world. This is why I am calling for legislation in the United States to protect worker privacy in the workplace. It should be illegal for any employer to keep any kind of records, logs, recordings, or do any kind of monitoring of worker communication of any kind.
It is time to be free from office gossips.