We have a file server on our company network with a public folder for employees to share files. Each folder is based on the employee's name, but it's read/write accessible to all.

It seems that my boss has copied all his files from his cell phone to his folder, and with it many images from downloaded Facebook messages. This happened 2 years ago, and it's obvious he left it there and forgot about it, and probably never knew they were there.

I was searching for some images when I stumbled over some inappropriate pics in this folder, along with lots of personal images, in this folder which is publicly accessible.

I am not a network admin, but I have duties that have to do with IT. I'm considering deleting these images as a courtesy so other people don't stumble on them and start talking about them behind his back. What should I consider to decide if this is a good idea or not?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 11:59

10 Answers 10



1) You cannot delete the whole folder, as it contains some appropriate files.

2) How do you know what's appropriate and what's not? You'd have to go through all of his files. It's not your job and actually worse IMO. Additionally, you can't be sure if you've removed all of it, you could be hiding the issue.

Bring it up to him privately instead

You've mentioned other personal files are there that aren't porn. Could you use that information and bring it up to him privately? E.G "I noticed you have X personal file listed on the shared folder".


As much of your statement and comments are indicating, this seems an oversight. I could dream up scenarios where the boss wants to assert his authority and show that he can put whatever he wants out there, but I highly, highly doubt it.

There's also the point that while he'd probably be quite glad if it were removed for him, you are messing with "his stuff" though technically it's on company property.

Perhaps the simple way to handle it would be to make a bit of a white lie and tell him you found something more innocuous like kids' pictures in his gallery or Facebook when you were searching for images (within the scope of your work). And tell him you thought he might like to know that it appears he has personal items visible to everyone.


Why not do this?

Have a quiet word and inform him that you found those images.

Tell him to tidy up and you are having a long lunch break.

End of story.

We all make mistakes. Give him slack. He might give you slack in the future. We all make mistakes.


If you are 100% sure that you had permissions to access the personal folder in the first place and there's no doubt about that, I'd tell him in person and not do anything about the files myself.

  1. It's his business in the end
  2. You would have to be the one making the call to perhaps delete files, that aren't stored anywhere else. I'd be upset, if you just deleted my personal files.

I'd be catious about coming of as snooping around. But if you had to check on his files then politely notice the mishap.


I am surprised that, in addition to telling him about the situation, no one mentioned that he might temporarily hide(given he has the user permissions to do this) the files, so they still exist, but are no longer searchable.


Just tell him.

It will likely be an embarrassing and/or funny moment. Or e-mail him at least. Keep it private obviously. There is nothing else for you to do. It's mostly just an interpersonal matter. I don't know how this raises any difficulty.

  • @FooTheBar - Then the alternative is to do nothing. Obviously OP wants to take some action, and in case he does not want to talk, then the next best method is to send an e-mail.
    – Battle
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 13:57

The situation is rather embarrassing...

I am not a network admin, but I have duties that have to do with IT.

Do your duties entitle you to coming up with a public untargeted suggestion that having a lot of work files out of version control system isn't good for the company? And that the company should consider either:

  • making regular backups of that network share, in which case everyone should check their folders to make sure no obsolete files are left there;
  • starting a regular cleanup script to make sure those folders are used only for temporary file transfer, in which case everyone is encouraged to check their folders to make sure that every valuable file is transferred to the VCS.

Hopefully, your boss will discover his mistake himself, saving everyone the embarrassment.

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    I rejoice in the idea that this suggestion finally leads to multiple, redundant, probably off-site backups of the concerning inappropriate images, conserving them for eternity.
    – Dubu
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 10:31
  • @Dubu You're right, the boss might just ignore the call and never check his folder... Well, automatic regular cleanup script is still viable, then.
    – Igor G
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 10:56

Now this is a conundrum! I would dismiss your own suggestion to simply delete the files on two grounds. Firstly, it is unethical to tamper with someone else's personal files without their permission. And secondly, it implicates you in your boss's unethical behavior, possibly in a legal sense. In my mind, you have three quasi-ethical options:

  • Follow company policy with regards to pornography. This likely means reporting it, and might get your boss fired for storing pornography on company assets. People might attribute responsibility for their dismissal to you. Arguably, this is unethical because it negatively affects your boss, and possibly you.
  • Pretend you haven't seen any pornography. Inform your boss that you noticed he has left his personal files on a public drive, strongly suggesting that he should remove them. Arguably, this is unethical because it does not respect your personal integrity, the rights of the owners of the company, and the rights of your colleagues to a pornography-free working environment.
  • Do nothing. Of course the previous ethical objections apply, but from a certain perspective it is arguably the least unethical because you don't actively do anything.
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    We gotta shake this attitude of the following everything in the book and going around firing people. We are all humans at the end of the day and even though I like to tackle the approach directly we should not jump to conclusions whether the person copied those files intentionally. I mean there is no way to gauge a person's intention that's what I am trying to say. And so when you go about firing people for their silly mistakes like copying porn in this case you're being passive about it. letting the person know about his mistake and giving a chance to improve is a universal law everyone knows
    – shuberman
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 17:11
  • The post does not mention porn. Why do you think those images was porn?
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 19:22
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    Anyway why is porn unethical?
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 20:27
  • @EdHeal At least it has no place on a company-public file server. (Except your company is "in the industry")
    – Fildor
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 9:54
  • @Ed Heal it was edited away with inapropriate content. Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 11:05

If you are not a network admin, stay out of it. Seriously. This has the potential to be more dangerous for you, because questions will be raised at how you knew about his folder, and why you were going through the files. Danger, Danger Will Robinson!

(fifty cool points to whoever is the first to get the pop culture reference)


Inform the IT team. This is potentially a data breach.

There are a number of regulations put into place around the handling of personal information, including things like the GDPR in Europe. I would recommend contacting the individuals responsible for handling compliance with these regulations in your organization so that this can be handled appropriately and in compliance with any relevant regulations.

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    Are you serious? Why not inform HR, while we are at it? Nuclear option - do it if you want your boss to "put you on the list".
    – Fildor
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 9:49
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    Yes, completely serious. If there's private customer or client information on there, it could put the organization in significant legal jeopardy.
    – nick012000
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 9:51
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    And you conclude that from this: "..a file server on our company network with a public folder for employees to share files..." ? I'd be struck with wonder if IT didn't know about that.
    – Fildor
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 9:52

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