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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
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    73

    An ethical question - client slander

    I have priveledged, but likely unethical information about a current web design project gone real bad. See, as adminstrator of the server, I can see his outbound emails against our good services.

    Complaints against schedule overruns started the arguments, and our adherance to written agreements (email, not TOS) did indeed factor in "subject to schedule variation - perhaps 3 or 4 weeks for updates"

    Anyway, bottom line is this. He ain't happy. OK, fine. But, a friend at another local web design service happed to catch wind about this pissed off dude tearing my little company down.

    I, as admin, check outbound emails on the server and see his lies - lack of compliance to agreed schedules - ect.

    Well, maybe I went a little to far. I warned of slander - defamation against our design firm. He did indeed tone it down, I see the outbound emails. Friends/Associates say I did the immoral thing, sure, I may agree. Yet, let the fruit of a crime (slander / lies) agaist our company was tough to let go.

    Advice please
    Brad

  2. #2
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    Jun 2001
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    I guess this would depend on the country you are in. In the UK you can only review private content if it is agreed via prior consent, such as in an AUP.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
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    San Jose, CA.
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    1,622
    Do you have a publicly posted privacy policy which informs your clients you have the right to read all their private emails sent through your server?

    If yes, then what are you worried about? If no, then what are you expecting people here to say, "good job, ignoring your privacy policy and possibly breaking the law is of course all right when someone slanders you."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Location
    West Michigan, USA
    Posts
    9,675
    Separate the emotion from business. You're angry. You're wanting to strike back, to make him hurt. Forget it.

    Let's take the emotion out of it for a minute and ask yourself:

    1. Is he realistically going to damage your reputation? Probably not.

    2. Can you prove that he's damaged your reputation to the point that its cost you money? Probably not.

    3. If you can prove damages, are these damages costing you more than it would cost you to hire an attorney to sue for damages? Probably not.

    Bottom line. Let it go. Put your efforts towards making your business better.

    --Tina
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
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    Kalamazoo
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    Simply because you have access to email on the server, doesn't grant you the right to the content of those emails.
    There is no best host. There is only the host that's best for you.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Australia
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    Quote Originally Posted by AH-Tina View Post
    Bottom line. Let it go. Put your efforts towards making your business better.
    Agreed. If you want another reason: One client's complaints about your schedules, no matter how untrue, would be nowhere near as damaging to your reputation as your own admission to spying on a client's outgoing e-mail...
    Chris

    "Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them." - Laurence J. Peter

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    73

    USA based

    Quote Originally Posted by thebyp2 View Post
    I guess this would depend on the country you are in. In the UK you can only review private content if it is agreed via prior consent, such as in an AUP.
    USA based
    thanks

  8. #8
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    Apr 2008
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    73
    hmmmm, interesting thought - "a publicly posted privacy policy which says I can read their email?"
    No, I don't think people would like that.

    its been a tough week for me, see... I caught wind of slander, so I was a sneaky little weasle and
    found a crime passing by my eyes, slander. Hmmmmm, what to do about that? Just let it go? Well, I decided
    to warn angry client of slander. Of course I'd never admit to anything like that. Ummm, in this case,
    2 wrongs made a right --- his slander PLUS my snooping EQUALS him backing down. This compromise has
    been quite painful for me, I just didn't know what else to do. What would you do?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
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    West Michigan, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by brad_the_beast99 View Post
    What would you do?
    The right thing. Not the emotionally driven vengeful tit-for-tat thing that makes you look like a completely unethical business man.

    --Tina
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  10. #10
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    Apr 2008
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    Separate the emotion from business. You're angry. You're wanting to strike back, to make him hurt. Forget it.

    Yeah... I'm slowing getting over it now.

    Let's take the emotion out of it for a minute and ask yourself:

    1. Is he realistically going to damage your reputation? Probably not.

    Limited damage, I'll admit. Raises a question. Was building a special kind of "website", one that I wanted to use in a portfolio for selling that special "website". Then the arguments break out, so people following the website progress catch wind of a dispute. Yeah, I can build another "special website", and make sure the next one can stand as a good portfolio piece. Not sure I'll be able to use this site in my portfolio now. He's really pissed at me. Must consult with an attorney about that.

    2. Can you prove that he's damaged your reputation to the point that its cost you money? Probably not.

    Well, I suppose not. Sure,


    3. If you can prove damages, are these damages costing you more than it would cost you to hire an attorney to sue for damages? Probably not.

    Bottom line. Let it go. Put your efforts towards making your business better.

  11. #11
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    Apr 2008
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    73
    Quote Originally Posted by brad_the_beast99 View Post
    Separate the emotion from business. You're angry. You're wanting to strike back, to make him hurt. Forget it.

    Yeah... I'm slowing getting over it now.

    Let's take the emotion out of it for a minute and ask yourself:

    1. Is he realistically going to damage your reputation? Probably not.

    Limited damage, I'll admit. But in the end, I must admit you are correct. Raises a question. Was building a special kind of "website", one that I wanted to use in a portfolio for selling that special "website". Then the arguments break out, so people following the website progress catch wind of a dispute. Yeah, I can build another "special website", and make sure the next one can stand as a good portfolio piece. Not sure I'll be able to use this site in my portfolio now. He's really pissed at me. Must consult with an attorney about that.

    2. Can you prove that he's damaged your reputation to the point that its cost you money? Probably not.

    Well, I suppose not. Sure, I had a few propective clients following the "special website" --- combination flow charting/project management/front-to-back training/video/yadda yadda. Disaster Recovery Plan, like a complete package. It was, and still is, drawing interest. I dunno what kind of damages there would be... maybe a few thousand or something if I could prove a client decided not to contract my services because of this slander? Ah, chicken feed really. Your right again.


    3. If you can prove damages, are these damages costing you more than it would cost you to hire an attorney to sue for damages? Probably not.

    You are correct.

    Bottom line. Let it go. Put your efforts towards making your business better.

    Yep, ok. Learned alot with this whole ordeal. Hey, clients my not necessarly read or fully understand written agreements. They want what they want, and if you start bringing up TERMS that were emailed back in September 2007, guess what, its going to look like a bunch of excuses, right? Bottom line is this, TERMS are TERMS, and when it works against client schedules or server uptime, they'll be pissed. So, we need to protect our companies. I warned of slander. They backed down. It worked this time. But thats a card I don't think I'm going to pull again.

  12. #12
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    Apr 2008
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    Yes, I certainly don't have a right to snoop email. In order to protect my reputation I blew through a red light to stop a slander. Quite risky move on my part, I must admit. Of course, I'd never stand in court with copies of his raided pop box. I'd be admitting my own guilt, fruit of a crime. So I did the old poker face tactic, warning him of defamation. Hmmmmm, not sure if I feel sleezy about this yet.. you guys are sort of getting to me now. As owner, I made a decision, and I'm going to have to live with this decision. Should I behave like that again, probably not!!!

  13. #13
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    Apr 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by AH-Tina View Post
    The right thing. Not the emotionally driven vengeful tit-for-tat thing that makes you look like a completely unethical business man.

    --Tina
    Yes the right think. Not the vengeful thing, I hear you.
    How to handle a crisis? (( even a mini crisis )) Learning as we go here, attempting to stamp out wrongful slander, but going about it the wrong way. Will I get caught snooping those mail logs last week? Ummmm, no, I won't. I admit, I deliberately used privilged information to call this guy into check. Not sure if I'd feel any better knowing he was out there trashing my prize portfolio piece either. Hmmmmmm, in the end Tina, I believe your in the right camp. I sort of come from the school "If you see something is very wrong, and you need to do a lesser wrong in order to fix it...then just make sure you don't get caught." Eeewwwwww, that sounded pretty slimey, didn't it?

  14. #14
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    Apr 2008
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    73
    Oh....no no no ..... believe me.... I'm certainly sneaky enough to keep my mouth shut about snooping this guys slanderous emails!!! I'd only admit something like that in a general blog like this. Sure his complaints about my development schedule may have some small time business loss. I do think you are correct though, I suppose there is some risk of getting audited if he wanted to turn around and pull the "legal card" --- lets say he somehow "caught wind" I read his private emails. Could my little stunt backfire, and my servers get audited? Ahhh.... its really too small change to fight. Thats why he backed down I think. No... it really isn't worth all the emotional struggle / ethic self examination I've put myself through. I think next time, I'm just gonna do exactly what I did, except offer an alternative opt out like Outsourcing if my scheduling is off. I know I could have been more diplomatic about this. Bottom like, I basically wanted to teach this monkey a thing or two about slander. I feel kind of dumb now. Even though my schedule "subject to change" clauses were right on the money, now I look like a sue-happy dictator, stomping my foot, making demands about slander.

  15. #15
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    Feb 2003
    Location
    Canada
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    IANAL but I think you should do a double-take on your own morals. A client communicating privately with an associate/friend is not libel nor slanderous, but free speech. I think you reading his private emails would be considered more grounds for a lawsuit than what 'harm' you may feel he's doing to you.

    You'd probably be best to consult the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986.

    If I were you, I'd also rethink your business ethics. Time to acknowledge that your service is lacking, fess up to it, and continue on with business.

  16. #16
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    Apr 2008
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    73

    double-take on own morals

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam-AEC View Post
    IANAL but I think you should do a double-take on your own morals.

    *****
    *****
    yep, done the double take on my own morals, and feel like a schmoe to be honest. I held the torch "Reputation is everything" and pounded my chest like King Kong. Like DeNiro's "you wanna mess with me?"... I had an obession, it was road rage style libel threats. Jeezzz, I can't believe I turned into such a maniac. Nobody was going to mess with my good service and completeness. If 99 people loved the project (and they did) and only 1 person slandered it, it became my crusade to find who's talking Junk about my good works. I feel like such an idiot.
    HEALING - all this shows the passion and energy I have for my company, getting out of the pit-stop and back on the road again.
    MORAL - try not to act like a road rage idiot.
    *****

    A client communicating privately with an associate/friend is not libel nor slanderous, but free speech.

    ******
    ******
    Well, as he was seeking new web design service that could provide a real SLA Service Level Agreement, strict adherence to precise scheduled updates, he was in fact stating I was out of compliance with our said agreements.
    DETAIL: Sept 2007 emails to/fro stated possible schedule exceptions needed for Winter time. Monthly website updates/rollouts may potentialy have schedule overruns due to Christmas/January commitments. I found accusations that I didn't properly adhere just blinding!! I was furious, I know I shouldn't have gotten that made, but gosh darn it... those schedule variations were written into the deal in Sept 2007!!!!!
    (( Here comes King Kong again )). I feel like a jerk now, how can being so correct feel soooo wrong???!!!!
    At the end of the day though.... his emailing other web design firms about me was really not free speech. It was slander. I do admit my wrong --- being a sneaky jerk, and I admit his wrong, which was slander.
    *********

    I think you reading his private emails would be considered more grounds for a lawsuit than what 'harm' you may feel he's doing to you.

    *****
    Ummmmm, yeah, your likely correct. But since I'm such a perfectionist out to protect my prized portfolio, I stooped to unethical and illegal tactics (reading private email)... knowing that I'll probably never get caught. Who's going to catch me reading his emails emminating from the SendMail server? NOBODY. So, I guess that makes me a jerk, and I feel pretty crappy about it. Thank Goodness this fire is like purification here, I'm not going to do anything like that again. I just hate the way I feel.
    LESSSON - While I cannot serve tightly written Service Level Agreements, perhaps I can network with Get A Freelancer folks on standby, in the event a project does run over schedule, let them take the ball. See, I don't wanna turn down paying gigs so I accept jobs under condition that schedule subject to minor fluctuations. See I need built in schedule execeptions for my the oncall nature of my job (Technical support - 3rd shift - armed with pager) and small children as well.
    *************

    You'd probably be best to consult the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986.

    If I were you, I'd also rethink your business ethics. Time to acknowledge that your service is lacking, fess up to it, and continue on with business.
    ********
    Let me fess up that I'm easily insulted. Thats dippy, I know that. I'm working on that. My service (oh boy, here I go again!!) was never lacking, because all clients who entered into website developement with me understood well ahead of time about oncall nature of my job, kids, etc. Hey, if they wanna pull that "strict adherence" card on me, they should have went to a full service design firm with SLA's then. People are attracted to my services because I work for discounted rates ($25) instead of standard $50 hourly or more. So NO, I do not find it acceptable that my service is lacking!! I'm King Kong --- however I will give some serious consideration as to how I may get better at damage control. If a website project is running over because I gotta pickup a sick kid from school, then I need some kind of standby-designer that I can pull out of my back pocket and take over when I'm a daddy.
    I think I really need to rethink this whole $25 per hour thing, too. I'm getting tired of watching prices rise everywhere, but me still keeping mine low.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    238
    what if the client is actually the competition "sizing you up" and making problems for you?

    morals do not exist for alot of people in the business world, or the real world!

    i'm curious, did this client pay any significant amount of money into the "system" yet?

  18. #18
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    Apr 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZL6net View Post
    what if the client is actually the competition "sizing you up" and making problems for you?

    morals do not exist for alot of people in the business world, or the real world!

    i'm curious, did this client pay any significant amount of money into the "system" yet?
    Hmmmmm.... sizing me up, aye? Interesting concept. Significant money? No, middle 5 figures range, but I have bigger ideas for it. See, I'm getting a lot of clients who demand they be trained to handle there own sites. So I've been building into the Site Planning things like customized Camtasia Studio screencams for targeted training, video project updates who require status updates on website progress, -- along with the actual site itself. OK, I gave some of the blueprints away here!! OH well, thats my plan!! So when it started getting slandered I took King Kong steps to stamp it out. But at the end of the day, I'm trying to create a system for niche market clients needing services.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    South Jersey - USA
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    137

    Wrong / Right / Dealing with difficult clients . . .

    Sir: I think it’s time for you to take a deep breath... and step back.
    “There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties, or you alter yourself to meet them.” – Phyliss Bottome
    I think it is important to realize a few things:
    1. Every one is normal until you get to know them.
    2. It is not always that we can make a client happy.
    3. It is not always that a client is right –
    4. It is not always that we are right –
    5. Someone not in the situation better sees the truth.
    Relationships that can move through conflict and difficult circumstances can grow in productivity and trust... however if you cannot get past this it can take a serious toll on your future business relationships. A great place to start is to set client expectations.

    A few quick things:

    1.
    Do you establish a time line with your clients? – do you stick to this.

    2.
    Do you utilize a project management application like – Dot Project or similar?
    a.Doing so allows for the client to see what is happening – dependencies and other issues that come in the way are not a surprise to them.

    3.Do you have a practical plan to communicate with difficult clients in the future?
    a.Suggest – having a strategy to manage client relationships
    b.Find a way to maintain personal integrity
    c.Find a way to step out and diagnose the issue w/o getting personal.
    d.Have a way to suggest a solution.

    4.Do you have a way to stop working with this client? And others in the future?

    A friend of mine showed me a developers website – this developer sets the clients expectations – and I think he does a great job @ this. A quick excerpt…

    let me confess my dirty little secret. In my mind I will be kicking around very similar questions about you. Questions like:
    • Are you someone I would enjoy working with?
    • Are you reasonable?
    • Do you manage your business well?
    • Are you serious about your website?
    Best wishes with your future business…
    Typo3USA - Typo3 USA Template, Extension Development and Hosting.

    PhilaNetworks.com - DataCenter Management, Hosting & Remote Hands across the Delaware Valley.

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