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To make a long story short, I work from home using my personal computer. I was supposed to be supplied with one from the company but it keeps getting delayed (apparently it's coming from HQ which is in another country).

My boss is really into screen sharing and recording our meetings. He's started asking me to share my screen when there's other people in the call. I feel this is a problem waiting to happen. Today he asked me to install a browser plugin and when it didn't appear right away got me to go into the different options trying to look for it. Somehow bookmarks from a dating website I used to use showed up. Also he sometimes gets me to download things and watches as I go into the download folder to get them. Since this is my main computer I have other download things. Also going to the start menu to open a work related app (like Excel) he can see all my programs.

How do I get this to stop immediately? Especially since he wants to record these videos and put them on the intranet, I don't think this is a good idea. I downloaded a new browser I will use just for work but I find asking me to go to my downloads folder or open other apps crosses the line. This is starting to happen more and more frequently.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Lilienthal May 20 at 21:42
  • if I'm about to get into a situation where I might have to screen share, I typically do a quick run down of what apps are open and what browsers tabs are open. Clear out any non-work related search boxes. – Mark Rogers May 20 at 22:06
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Just a really low tech solution that's probably easier than a VM.

You should:

Use a second account for your PC where you do work stuff, and only work stuff.

While he may be able to see some of the applications you've installed, you won't stumble onto files that maybe you'd like others not to see. In addition, you can create shortcuts on your desktop, so you have no need to go into your start menu at all.

You can also remove items from the start menu, and completely hide the start menu as well. But that probably takes a little more effort.

EDIT:

I do want to identify that there are many jurisdictions where your employer is required to supply all equipment required for your work. This is also usually dependant on the type of employment.

I also want to identify that in the current COVID-19 climate, some employers are standing down employees, and making them redundant. Usual worker protections that may exist, may be modified under these conditions.

So, should an employee refuse perform some duties (whether justified or not) the outcome may not be desired.

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    And worth noting that having an Admin account, user-home account and user-work account is always a good idea. – Solar Mike May 20 at 6:58
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    This is what I decided to do after thinking about how to solve a similar problem. One big plus is that I also don't have access to any of my recreational apps (read games) on that account, so the possibility of being distracted by them is minimised – MindSwipe May 20 at 11:05
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    Same goes for browsers (at least chrome). You can have a work account with its own bookmarks and history. Not only more private, but also more organized. – SirDuckduck May 20 at 12:26
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    On top of making things like that easier, I also find it makes it easier to separate work time from personal time. I just switch users, there you go. No more messages, work email isn't set up, personal messages start rattling in, etc. Optimal solution IMO – bytepusher May 20 at 13:48
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    @Evorlor Yes, every computer should have an Admin account separate from your day-to-day user account. That way stuff (mostly) cannot get installed without a human being at a keyboard willingly typing in the admin password. Unless you are super gullible, it will save you a lot of time running malware cleaners and reinstalling OS's. – T.E.D. May 20 at 14:35
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This is a really good question for the current working environment, where work and home are colliding for many of us, in unpredictable ways. The best answer for you will depend on multiple things, that are not clear.

Social Solutions

You could try to solve this with a social solution - chatting with your boss, reminding him that this is your personal laptop, that you do have a social life outside of work, and that there are things about your personal life that you do not want to share with everyone at work. Explain how it makes you feel when you are being expected to open up folders that leak the names of personal files to others in the meeting, that could include private medical details or aspects of your love life that you don't wish to make public knowledge. Making video recordings of these meetings only makes this worse. Most bosses will understand and adapt. A good boss would have picked up on your unease and adjusted the work style. A really good boss would not have placed you in this situation in the first instance, would have thought through the implications of using your home computer for work - and would have had a plan to reduce the risk of this.

Technical Solutions

There are technical steps that you could use to place some isolation between home and work life. This is probably a good idea to do, even if one of the other options is the main route that you choose to use. This job may not last as long as this laptop, and they will want you to remove any work stuff when you part ways. I'd probably do something as simple as creating a seperate user on your laptop for work - this way most folders are completely seperate from your personal folders.

Legal / Employment solutions

This is probably the least likely approach to get a good, harmonious outcome. Depending on where you live in the world, there may be some legal protections for personal privacy, right to a family and personal life outside of work and also for protection from unreasonable harassment.

Your employer should be providing you with the essential equipment required to perform the role, the fact that they haven't doesn't automatically mean they can require you to use your personal kit. The fact that personal dating history has been exposed against your wishes, and that this made you feel uncomfortable crosses the line of sexual harassment in some countries. (Its sexual, it is unwanted and it made YOU feel uncomfortable. The intent of your manager is irrelevant). Let your employer's HR department know that the lack of your work computer is an issue that the company needs to solve urgently - and they also need to put in some safeguards into the working environment for you whilst the computer remains in transit.

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    On the social solutions side, it may be reasonable to consider only pre-planned videoed work (when you've got time to open a different browser, close non-work-related apps and block notifications, even if you for some reason don't set up a different user) and agree to avoid ad-hoc screen sharing. That's what I do, because my primary user was already set up to do some work from home, but nothing too bad would appear anyway (at worst strange, even rude but not offensive incoming IMs if I forgot to close the tab). I'm coming from the point of view of academia, where using personal kit is common – Chris H May 20 at 11:12
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+300

All the other answers have made an assumption that you need to comply with your boss's request. You don't.

They have failed to provide you with the equipment that you need to do your job! You've done them a favour by agreeing to use your personal equipment to do the job that they want you to do. That favour doesn't have to extend to acquiessing to every demand they make.

You can just tell them that you're not going to share your screen whilst on your personal computer, and if they're that invested in screen-sharing then they should hurry up and provide you with company equipment. If they can't get the model they want from another country, then they can buy you one from the local store, or Amazon.

Obviously the conversation around this needs to be presented sufficiently gently (the IPS SE may be able to help with that?), but (if you do this) don't present it as a request. A request is something they can turn down. This is you telling them that <this thing> isn't going to happen, and working with them to ensure that they can provide you with the necessary tools to resolve it.


EDIT You can also discuss with them detailed specifics about what it is they want screen-sharing for, whilst they get your company laptop delivered.

  • I suspect most things will boil down to "Well, I like it". In which case ... tough. Your boss can suck it up for however many days it takes to get you the laptop.
  • A whole bunch of things can be solved by them sharing their screens with you. They want to help you find an option in a menu ... they can show you where the menu is on their screen.
  • A further selection of things could be solved by them sharing their screen and allowing you remote control. If they want to see how you'd fill in a form, then they can open the form on their machine, screen share it, give you control, and watch you fill it out.

Work hard, and inventively, at solving any direct actual needs they have, which they'd like to use screen sharing for.

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    If you're at risk of being fired for not sharing your screen, without any grounds for needing that, then you're already screwed. But I agree, if you think that's the case then you should follow one of the other answers ... whilst looking for a new job. – Brondahl May 20 at 13:17
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    My line of thinking is companies may be looking to cut costs, and the employees that are most troublesome may be the best candidates in some people's eyes. I generally would agree with what you're saying though. – Gregory Currie May 20 at 13:19
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    @GregoryCurrie Considering that one of the scenarios OP points out has already happened involved bookmarks from a Dating Website being displayed on-screen, with the potential for those details to be recorded and shared on the Intranet site... Well, installed programs or internet bookmarks can indicate OP's religion, sexual orientation and/or other Protected Characteristics. HR should be VERY INTERESTED in making sure that OP has a Work Laptop, and that the Manager not be allowed to force them to screen-share or record their personal device. – Chronocidal May 20 at 14:58
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    "the IPS SE may be able to help with that?" Nope, that's entirely in this site's ballpark. It's also the type of answer we'd prefer to see to a question like this rather than the tech support answers that are unfortunately receiving most of the votes here. :) Thank you for addressing the workplace aspect of OP's question. – Lilienthal May 20 at 21:41
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    @Brondahl It's the workplace aspect that's the defining factor. An employer-employee relationship represents a vastly different dynamic compared to a personal conflict with a friend or instructor. There are also legal aspects at play and the fact that you rely on continued employment to support your livelihood. Navigating all these elements professionally is what this site is all about. We are not a tech support site and while Gregory's answer is indeed a solution, it's just a shame that the to me far more interesting workplace question hasn't received much input as a result. – Lilienthal May 21 at 11:33
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This will take a little work on your part, but you might consider using a virtual machine running on your personal computer for these work activities. Depending on the OS you're running on your home computer you could use VirtualBox, VMWare Workstation, Hyper-V, etc.

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  • It is the company's responsibility to provide employees with the means to perform their job, rather than requiring them to resort something this complicated! Having said that, I would personally spin up a VM for work in a heartbeat. – employee-X May 20 at 18:34
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Another somewhat low-tech solution is to have two monitors for your computer. Typically, "sensitive" content like notification popups will only show up on your primary monitor. If you limit screen sharing to your secondary monitor, you are much less likely to expose sensitive information. It also gives you a chance to navigate past personal content to work related content on the monitor that is not shared before moving the content over to the screen that is shared.

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    This is also useful when presenting on a projector. – bta May 20 at 19:45
  • +1 Underrated answer, I did this a lot of the times instinctively, but I didn't realize why I preferred doing presentations on the second screen. – Mark Rogers May 21 at 17:55
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In addition to secondary users or virtual machines, have a separate work PC. Not a solution for everybody, but many people don't need a fancy PC for work. So just keeping that old PC you replaced or buying a cheaper used PC (then reinstalling an OS) and use that for work and work only can be a solution. This is helpful if the Start menu could be a concern or you're worried about apps the company wants you to install.

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    A cheaper solution (with a desktop) is to have two different hard disks and choose the one you boot from. One contains personal stuff (e.g. a Linux distribution). The other contains professional stuff (e.g. the Windows distribution provided by your employer). Hard disks are cheap (an SSD one may cost just 50€). – Basile Starynkevitch May 20 at 20:24
  • OP is supposed to have a separate work PC, but their employer is dragging their feet and not providing the required equipment. Any hardware they purchase to make up for this deficiency on the part of the employer should be subject to reimbursement by the employer. They should not be spending their own money for something their employer is responsible for delivering. – alroc May 20 at 20:52
  • If my hammer drill broke... I would go buy another hammer drill, one w/o all the bells and whistles unless I could bill it to the customer. What's not acceptable would be lacking an essential tool of my trade. Computers are even easier IME; 97% of the ones I've owned literally came out of the garbage. I'd worry about the one time I'd have to 'genuinely' install an OS, than the continuing and intrinsic fallibility of user accounts, VMs, and boot sectors. – Mazura May 20 at 22:42
  • I love @BasileStarynkevitch 's comment. It should be its own answer. Get a USB key. Boot from there. Don't even mount the other disk. Tough cookies if the boss doesn't like it. – Stephan Branczyk May 22 at 3:39
  • @BasileStarynkevitch Also works with a laptop. – gnasher729 May 23 at 19:36

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