An employee accidentally sends an e-mail meant for their partner to a client, or inadvertently bulk-mails the entire firm embarrassing stories about a colleague. Worse still, the same defamatory e-mail is sent to an entire list of customers. It used to be that such incidents could be laughed off over a pint after work, but recent legislation and compliance issues mean a simple slip-up can have disastrous consequences for individuals and companies. United States-based oil refiner Chevron Corp famously paid US$2.2 million to four female employees to settle a sexual harassment suit because of an e-mail circulated in the company that listed 25 reasons why beer was better than a woman. MessageLabs Asia-Pacific technical director David Banes said: 'Employee use of e-mail is becoming a compliance minefield. 'The main problems are the speed and informality with which e-mail is used by employees ... and the almost total absence of management control of the content of such communications within and outside the company.' MessageLabs' solution is an e-mail content filtering service that lets companies use technology to enforce their e-mail policies. 'Most customers now have a mature anti-virus set-up in place, and having resolved viruses and spam, they are looking for the third piece of the jigsaw. 'What's new about all this is not the concepts behind it but the technology and legislation that is driving adoption,' Mr Banes said. He referred to laws mandating corporate responsibility for the security, privacy and reliability of data such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and Gramm-Leach-Bliley. 'Directors can be held liable if sensitive information gets leaked,' he added. MessageLabs' Content Control works by grouping employees according to seniority and specific requirements, and applying limitations to what they can send and receive via e-mail. For example, spreadsheets sent from the finance department after 7pm can be automatically copied to a director, or the sales department can be prevented from sending Excel files as attachments to reduce the risk that customer lists are accidentally sent outside the company.