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Large companies paying workers to read employee e-mail

More than 40 percent of large companies are paying staffers to read outbound worker e-mail, and nearly 45 percent have investigated leaks of confidential data over e-mail, according to Proofpoint survey.

If you were thinking of using your work e-mail for job hunting or online dating, think twice.

A new survey finds that 41 percent of large companies (those with 20,000 or more employees) are paying staffers to read or otherwise analyze the contents of employees' outbound e-mail.

In the study, which was commissioned by e-mail security provider Proofpoint and conducted by Forrester Research, 44 percent of the companies surveyed said they investigated an e-mail leak of confidential data in the past year and 26 percent said they fired an employee for violating e-mail policies, according to security portal Help Net Security.

The companies also said they are worried about employees leaking company information on their blogs, message boards, and media-sharing sites like YouTube.

Eleven percent of the U.S. companies surveyed took disciplinary action against employees for improper use of blogs or message boards in the past year, and slightly more than that disciplined workers for social-network violations and for improper use of media-sharing sites.

And 14 percent of publicly traded companies investigated the leakage of material financial information, such as unannounced financial results, on blogs and message boards.