By Carol Kleiman, Chicago Tribune Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News

Mar. 23--Using office e-mail has been compared to posting a notice on the bulletin board: Never for one moment should you think your message is read only by the person you've sent it to.

While most employees don't worry too much about their colleagues knowing their innermost secrets and complaints, they do worry about the boss' invading their privacy.

The question is, do employers have the right to scrutinize all information transmitted on company computers?

As the superinformation highway broadens, employee use of e-mail for personal messages becomes more vulnerable. And corporations become more vulnerable to lawsuits.

That's why experts now are paying attention to the issue of employee privacy versus employer right to know.

``Most companies' employee policies (on employee privacy) were developed in the 'paper era' and are likely to be inadequate for the changing electronic workplace,'' says Dr. Lawrence F. Young, co-director of the Center for Information Technology and Law at the University of Cinncinnati. ``Many companies have no stated policy at all regarding monitoring employees' e- mail, while the number of e-mail users in U.S. companies has grown to about 16 million.''

The center has written a guideline for company policy. Among the tips: 1. Know that privacy can be reasonably balanced against other legitimate interests.

2. Have a written, well-thought-out and comprehensive policy statement distributed to all employees.

3. Identify the employee as the ``custodian'' of certain recorded information, not the ``owner.''

4. Some companies identify each communications system as company property and state that the company reserves the right to monitor all e-mail.

Young points out that Federal Express, Eastman Kodak, Du Pont, Pacific Bell, Nordstrom, Bank of Boston, Hughes Aircraft and United Parcel clearly state they monitor all e-mail.

On the other hand, he says, General Motors, Hallmark Cards, Warner Brothers, Media General and Citibank ``make it clear that their policy is to protect employees' e-mail message privacy.''

For a copy of the report, a joint research project with the university's law school, write to the Center for Information Technology and Law, CBA, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, 45221. Send a check for $9.

And don't make your request by e-mail - unless you want the whole world to know about it.

LEADERSHIP RESIGNATION: The press release from Georgetown University in Washington reported that ``citing differences with the board of directors over the strategic direction of the company, the CEO of Looking Glass Incorporated (LGI) announced his resignation today. LGI has been plagued with heavy losses at its integrated circuits division as well as environmental problems in its lighting products plant.''

The surprise at the eye-catching news that a CEO would resign under such circumstances was diffused by the next paragraph which explained the company is fictitious and was created as a project for first-year MBA students at the Georgetown School of Business.

The object was to apply leadership skills in a realistic corporate environment. The MBAs did what was right: They got rid of the ineffective CEO. But while the problems were realistic, was the solution?

Many long-time employees would be glad to share with the MBAs that in real life what the culpable CEO would have done instead of resigning might have been to add a few titles to his rank and given himself a huge raise plus stock options.

EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION: Speaking of CEOs and the way they compensate themselves, the watchdog of executive compensation, Graef Crystal, has cut out for his special baliwick the study of overpaid and underpaid executives. Crystal, who isn't popular with everyone in the country's most highly cushioned boardrooms, bases his analysis on a comparison with company performance and the going salaries.

But there's a serious problem, Crystal has found. He writes in The Crystal Report that ``in study after study that we have conducted over the past several years, we have found there to be hardly any relationship between (CEO) pay and performance, and, in some studies, no relationship at all...''

His conclusion about how the big guys get their big bucks: ``There's an appearance of chaos in the world of executive compensation.'' END!B&$9?TB-WORKING-COL

AP-NY-03-23-95 1558EST

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