How To Digitally Erase All Your Stuff When You Quit Your Job

Wired ran a piece a few weeks ago with the title of this post.  An alternative title might be “How to get yourself arrested and prosecuted“.

While Wired’s heart was in the right place, they probably should have consulted an attorney before they published the article.

The basic premise of the article is that you should copy all of your personal stuff off your work computer and then wipe your work computer.

The problem is that your work computer is not your property and wiping it could be considered destroying company property and you could be prosecuted under any of a number of laws.  You could be liable for all of the costs to reconstruct the data that was stored on your computer.

That being said, lets look at what they suggested:

  1. Before wiping out your computer entirely, make sure to back up anything important.  PDFs, photos, your resume, anything dear to your heart.  Do it with a flash drive or USB disk.

The problem is that this is about protecting YOUR stuff and not your employer’s stuff.  And, if you do this without your employer’s permission you could be ACCUSED of stealing company information – even if you didn’t.  Remember, being charged with a crime is different than being convicted, other than both will cost you a lot of money, damage your reputation and distract your attention from a new job.

2, Check USB slots for cables, flash drives, etc.

That is probably OK as long as you only take stuff which is yours, personally.

3. Shut down your Voicemail.  Record a new greeting telling people that you left the company and who to bug.  Delete all the messages in your voicemail inbox.

Don’t do this unless your employer approves.  Those voice mails are not your property – they belong to the company.  Ask your employer what they want you to do regarding your voice mails.  More than likely they will want you to preserve them until they have a chance to go through them.  They may or may not want to make your departure public right now, so they may not want you to change your greeting.  In any case, it is their choice, not yours.

4. Shut down your email.  Delete all your emails.  In Wired’s defense, at least here they say make sure it is within your company’s policies to do so.

I doubt your company is going to want to you to delete ANY emails.  They are going to want to back everything up first, then probably they are going to want to go through them.

5.  Wipe your computer.  Wipe the puppy clean, they say.

I say that doing this could subject you to a felony.

6. Wipe your phone.  Here they are partially right.  If the phone is your property, the company cannot tell you what to do with it, but if it is yours, you are probably not going to want to wipe it.

If it is company property, you don’t have the right to destroy the data on it.  Again, potential felony charges, depending on how much it costs the company to reconstruct the data and if they consider it willful destruction of company property or sabotage.

7.  Log out of any applications like Slack, Hipchat or your browser.

I think this one is safe.  If it a company account, they will have the means to log back in.

Bottom line, if the device is owned by the company, coordinate with your manager, HR and/or IT.   If in doubt, don’t do it.  If you own the device you have a lot more latitude in terms of what you can do with it.

One simple way to do things, if your company allows it, is to store YOUR stuff on your own personal flash drive.  Also don’t comingle work and personal email messages.  Keep personal personal and work work.  That way, you don’t store anything on the company computer and you don’t have to remove anything.  Don’t log on to your personal email or social media accounts from your work computer.  Remember, even if log out from social media or email accounts or delete your social media and email passwords, your company may have them anyway in a variety of different ways.

If in doubt, contact an attorney.  Before you act.

Information for this post came from Wired.

 

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