The biggest local story going right now is the case of two fired CBS news anchors, Larry Mendte and Alycia Lane. The story began months ago, when Lane was fired after a series of bizarre incidents in which she allegedly e-mailed former ESPN talking head Rich Eisen with provocative photos and was subsequently involved in an altercation with a New York City police officer. The story about the e-mails broke and was reported in both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. It was subsequently discovered that Mendte had been accessing Lane's work AND personal e-mail accounts and that he was (allegedly) feeding information to reporters: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/front_page/20080722_U_S___Mendte_a_tireless_spy.html. Mendte was then fired as well.
E-mail has become an indispensable part of our lives. We rely on it for work and for pleasure. I know that my firm has a strict policy about what can and cannot be sent out from the work e-mail account, and it is specifically provided that there is NO expectation of privacy in any e-mails we send out. That said, I can't help but think that one does not and should not expect our co-workers--especially those on an equal level with us--to hack into our e-mail. What Mendte did, ostensibly out of jealousy over the pay raise given to Lane two years ago, highlights how fragile that boundary between public and private is, and how easily it can be erased.
I guess that the long and the short of it, be careful about what you send out on your e-mail, and be aware that if you are using a computer in any place where others can access it, you face the risk of losing that privacy.