Tech & Work

Who is liable when computer tech swipes files?


I am going to blog tomorrow about the five worst places to work in the US. But while looking into the companies on the list, I came across a series of articles written by the folks at consumerist.com about a "sting" they purportedly conducted on Best Buy's Geek Squads across the country.They apparently loaded a computer with porn and rigged it to make a video of itself. The video captured "every cursor movement, every program opened, every file accessed." They took the computer to less than a dozen Geek Squads. Apparently most places were fine but then they caught one guy copying the pornographic images to his company-issued thumb drive.

Of course, this doesn't prove Best Buy is some kind of covert, satanic porn distributor as much as it proves they have an employee with questionable morals. And that I guess that can happen to just about any company.

I was more intrigued by the discussion that followed this "news flash." Most readers—many of whom repair computers—expressed no shock that this goes on. One guy even said that stealing porn is the only perk to the job.

Some readers suggested that everyone just calm down, that if you take your computer to get it fixed, the content of your hard drive is fair game. They suggested that you "learn to live with it or fix it yourself."

One guy said that if you take your computer in to get something simple done, like have iTunes installed, then the tech has no business exploring you're My Documents folder. But how can you ensure that they won't? How can you ensure that they won't go into your bank files and start copying down account numbers? Would the company be liable in a case like that?

What if you yourself are a tech working on someone's computer and you come across some data or pictures that may be illegal like child porn? Are you legally obligated to report it?

It's a complicated question that I'm sure won't be sufficiently answered until a few court cases set precedent.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

Editor's Picks