Our dependence on the Internet affects both our careers and our personal lives. When travelling with a work laptop, there’s more to worry about than losing an expensive piece of equipment. If you drive a company car, you’re not supposed to take it to the beach for some surfing; if you translate that policy to all of your employer’s property, you see the problem. The difference is that your boss doesn’t follow you to the beach.
There are Rules
It’s easy to forget that what you do on a computer is not private. The company you work for must adhere to standards that tend to get lax in the home environment. In both cases, there are things you’re not supposed to do, but on a work laptop your actions are governed by policy even if you are not at work. The computer is an extension of the office. Movies and television shows available through peer sharing sites are strictly off limits. Once you download to the company computer, it becomes their property and their responsibility (read: liability).
Information governance is a term that’s started gaining traction lately. It’s a new concept, and it’s still developing. The specifics are vague and vary by state. A computer is the property of your employer. Information governance makes companies responsible for what is on their property. It eliminates the blame game if the hammer should drop.
Information governance is two-way street. It also means if you do something on the company computer, the business must adhere to the laws regarding eDiscovery. If a lawyer subpoenas email records, they all go, including your personal correspondence.
On a company computer, there’s no expectation of privacy. Businesses often take steps to protect themselves without your knowledge. That’s where you might run into trouble while travelling.
How Would They Know?
A surveillance camera is a proactive way for businesses to protect their property. It allows those in charge to know what happens when they are not around. Cameras also are deterrents. If a car thief sees surveillance cameras in a public garage, he might keep moving without committing a crime.
When you download a movie, when you video chat with your girlfriend, when you place bets online, odds are the company will know what you are doing. There are data logs, packet sniffers and network analyzers that are the virtual equivalent of a surveillance camera. Even when you delete illegally downloaded files or incriminating communications, there will always going to be a trace left somewhere.
You are Not James Bond
There is no need to handcuff your laptop to your wrist to avoid theft, but you do need to protect the company as well. A work computer has documents that you don’t want to share with the room. Things like customer contacts can potentially hurt your employer. Be careful with company information on a public network like the hotel or airport.
If you’re travelling and can’t resist the call of the Internet, take a personal laptop or tablet computer to use for emails, forum discussions and to keep in touch with family. Take precautions against information theft. The company’s going to protect themselves, so you should protect yourself, too.