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So the FDA spied on scientists' e-mails? Surprised?

Does the New York Times' revelation that the FDA spied on its scientists' e-mails suggest that many organizations might be secretly in on the habit? Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Being a boss can lead to a paranoid life.

You think you know who's on your side. But do you? After all, in order to become a boss, you did have to betray a couple of people along the way. How can you tell who's doing it to you?

Thankfully, technology has offered you more than one easy option.

Today's revelations in the New York Times that the FDA spied on its scientists' e-mails offers a picture of large-scale prying into not merely work correspondence but personal matters too.

The Times' discovery shows a systematic level of surveillance -- even of correspondence sent by allegedly disgruntled scientists to the president.

The spying was was only discovered when a private document-handling contractor reportedly posted them on a Web site. Yes, a public Web site, one to which anyone had access.

One assumes they did this accidentally. However, should the fact of the surveillance really be a surprise?

Should any employee or servant of any organization truly be stunned if their own e-mail is being eyed by those who might not even be entirely mean-spirited, but merely sweetly paranoid?

Does the almost complete insecurity of electronic communication not leave the door to our thoughts always a little ajar?

I know that those with technological expertise will wallow in the joy of their encryptment abilities.

But for real people, technology itself creates a time pressure, a pressure to respond, react, express an instant thought or feeling and get it to its destination in a nanosecond.

The almost automatic need to to write finds a willing partner in the ease with which it can be done.

But the fact that it is physical, observable, and recordable means that the quaint notions of privacy so loathed by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg tend to take on a fluid definition.

How many times in ordinary corporate (and even nonprofit) life have promotions been given or taken away because the bosses secretly knew what someone really did or didn't feel?

How many times, when downsizings are deemed necessary, are victims chosen on the basis of some personal snippet they hope no-one knows?

You might imagine that I am exaggerating. But I know the e-mail surveillance thing must be true because there was an episode of "The Office" about it. In 2005. (A little evidence is embedded.)

Of course someone might mutter that there might be a touch of illegality about spying.

But when you've got to present figures every three months, when you're being hounded night and day by Wall Street, when the last thing you need is even more trouble, you have to find ways to protect yourself.

Stuff happens. You just have to anticipate as much stuff as you can.