Prior to leaving my former employer, I sent to my personal email a powerpoint presentation that I wanted to use for studying and upskilling while on a break. There is no company confidential data there and I wouldn't use it in my new role, however, I learned upon starting in my new employer that anything from previous employers can be considered data theft.

What should I do now? Is this data theft? Will my previous employer definitely sue me?

I am afraid of coming forward and getting punished, but I am also afraid that if I don't come forward the former employer might look at my activity and see a problem with it.

Any help here from specialists that have seen such scenarios?

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  • when I say not on purpose, is that I didnt think this was seen as confidential. – Remorseful Nov 8 at 12:20
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is a purely legal question. Please try Law instead. – Steffen Ullrich Nov 8 at 12:24
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    Whether it was illegal or if it was intellectual property is entirely up to your previous employer, not your current employer. – schroeder Nov 8 at 12:27
  • This is true, but I am afraid my previous employer might notify the current one too. I am in a conundrum: if I come forward, I might be punished. If I keep quiet and my previous employer notices, I also might be punished. What should I do? – Remorseful Nov 8 at 12:34
  • Are you actually using this document for your current job in any way? Do you have a copy of it sitting on your work computer? Or is it only on your personal computer at home, and you only reference it there, outside of working hours? – Steve-O Nov 8 at 14:05

What should I do now? Is this data theft? Will my previous employer definitely sue me?

You took a copy of a powerpoint presentation.

What you can do now is delete your copy.

I don't see how your previous employer could learn of your copy unless you tell them or they examine their email logs very closely (highly unlikely). And even if they did, I seriously doubt they would sue you.

I am also afraid that if I don't come forward the former employer might look at my activity and see a problem with it.

If you are this afraid you could notify your previous employer of your "mistake", apologize, and tell them that you already deleted the copy.

I don't see this as advisable to do. But if you feel you must ease your mind, this is how to do it.

  • Thanks for your answer. – Remorseful Nov 8 at 12:36
  • @snow I sent this from my personal email to myself. did not use my corporate email. But I think it is traceable anyway – Remorseful Nov 8 at 12:37
  • do companies not go through a lot of security overview on computers of employers who left? I was in a large IT firm. – Remorseful Nov 8 at 12:38
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    Let's review - you sent a file to your personal account from your personal account so you could review, presumably at home, for legitimate purposes at the time. You no longer work for the company in question so you should remove the file from your machine/email. Reporting the deletion of the file serves no purpose to the originating company, so you don't need to do this. Deleting the file will suffice. As Joe states - it would be highly unusual for any company to keep track of this, unless they have a specific reason to do so. – AdzzzUK Nov 8 at 12:55
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    I have worked as a Systems Administrator in both commercial and non-commercial sectors (read between the lines). There is 100% for sure a log of what you did both at your old company and in the records of the personal email provider you used ... and a 0.001% chance anyone will look for it w/ out cause. As long as you don't provide cause by posting it online for others to use, or brag about having it to people that would rat you out ... you will be fine. If it bugs you, delete it. – CaffeineAddiction Nov 8 at 13:16

I concur with the core of Joe's answer: just delete the file.

No one at either company has filed a complaint as yet, and given that you haven't been specifically referencing this document for your current job, it's questionable whether you've actually run afoul of their policy anyway. If someone from either company does contact you about this, be honest, but I don't think there's anything to be gained from speaking up when nobody is asking questions.

If you still want to keep a copy, consider writing your own "brass tacks" document that summarizes the information you wanted to glean from this file in the first place, in your own words (ie: don't copy-paste, but re-write and paraphrase.)

You said nothing in the document was sensitive information, so doing this will (a) allow you to delete the offending file without sacrificing the actual information you wanted and (b) help you to learn that information so you'll know it, which was your original goal anyway.

  • Thank you :) that helps – Remorseful Nov 8 at 14:37
  • Btw, I defo dont want to keep a copy. So I just deleted it – Remorseful Nov 8 at 15:08
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    This is the best answer: Your employer never owns the information on your head: That is yours. The file gave you information that you want to retain, but the file itself is theirs. Writing down what you want to archive is the only solution. – Draco18s Nov 8 at 17:32
  • Draco. Not at all! That is not my intention. I dont want to bend any rules. I honestly just wanted to read the training deck over the weekend to upskill, no intention to steal information (in any method or form). Learning skills is one thing, but writing down information is another. That is why as soon as I remebered I deleted – Remorseful Nov 8 at 18:58

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