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Today a user asked a question in a private team (visible only for colleagues in our department) in MS Teams. This question referred to the rollout of a product. I needed some more information and messaged this user in private in MS Teams. After getting the information I also provided the answer in this private chat.

An hour later this user posted a screenshot of our private conversation in a different private team. He also added a slightly negative comment on how the rollout is planned.

I know that the chat history in personal apps like WhatsApp is confidential and cannot be shared without the consent of all involved (at least in my country, Germany). Does this also apply to business apps like Teams/Slack or even just the Outlook email history between two people?

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    Regardless of actual confidentiallity, the biggest take away here is you have learned to only engage this user in a completely formal way in the future. – Myles Nov 17 '20 at 17:21
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    "This question referred to the rollout of a product of mine" No, it didn't - it referred to the rollout of a product of the company's which you happen to be working on. – Philip Kendall Nov 17 '20 at 17:35
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    "I know that the chat history in personal apps like WhatsApp is confidential and cannot be shared without the consent of all involved" uh, is it? What do you think would happen if you did? – nvoigt Nov 17 '20 at 21:54
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    "I know that the chat history in personal apps like WhatsApp is confidential and cannot be shared without the consent of all involved". I'm pretty sure that you're confusing Whatsapp with Snapchat (the app that teenagers use to share nudes with each other). With Whatsapp, there is absolutely nothing preventing you from taking a screenshot from a private conversation and sharing it with the World! – Stephan Branczyk Nov 17 '20 at 22:16
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    The important distinction here is between "company use" and "personal use". A chat on Teams is obviously "company use", even if it is considered a private conversation. So neither the company, nor any employee of the company, is under an obligation of privacy to you regarding the conversation (unless it relates to whistleblowing, etc.). Of course, the company will still have its own expectations of confidentiality. – Joe Stevens Nov 18 '20 at 20:39
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If it's on a business app - with an associated business account and the conversation is work-related (rather than "obviously" personal) then no it's not going to be confidential.

They asked you a work-related question, you gave them a work-related answer. I don't see any way that's going to be considered confidential (assuming here that the place he shared this is also within the business' umbrella - if they shared it externally they could be in trouble there).

I'm not a lawyer - an my knowledge on German privacy legislation is patchy so I can't say for definite where this would stand legally, but from a workplace-navigation point of view making an issue about this isn't likely to go well for you.

Clearly if they had issues with how your rollout was planned it would have been much better to come to you directly but trying to rules-lawyer the situation will look petty and more over will simply validate the criticism in the eyes of those who see it. If you stand by the answer you gave him then stand by it like a professional, if you are in the team where he shared it provide a dispassionate rebuttal to their negative comment explaining why they are wrong or why you are doing what you are doing. If not then ignore it unless someone raises the same points to you - if the do then rebut then.

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    To add a bit, this was also most likely carried out using the company's internet service, which happens to be company property and also under possible surveillance and administration/logs of the company's sys admin, so yes, not confidential at all. – DarkCygnus Nov 17 '20 at 18:04
  • If I can keep all the different video conference apps straight, I believe that for Teams the entire chat transcript, public and private, is available to the meeting owner. – Jon Custer Nov 17 '20 at 18:54
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In addition to @motosubatsu's enlightening answer, I'd like to add some extra knowledge:

Everything your employer provides you with, that you use for work, is your company's property.

In your case, you used your work account with your work software, you exchanged work information with your work colleagues. Nothing involved should be confidential to your company, assuming we're not talking about leaking information to external parties. Unless they made the comments personal (i.e. ad hominem), they're only working with company property.

Surely, the specific user may have behaved unprofessionally. But given that they shared the information within the company, it should not be considered "leakage", unless you hold your ground that such information should be confidential within your specific division and that the user shared it with another division. In such cases, you may want to discuss with your manager whether it's true. However, product rollout plans are uncommonly taken as confidential within a small group.

The best thing you can do is to move on from this case, and try other resorts in the future, like emailing, when you expect or demand higher levels of professionalism in communication.

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You are being paid by the company to work on projects for the company, and therefore any conversations related to that paid-for work cannot possibly be "confidential."

If any of you want to "yack among yourselves, after hours," there are plenty of on-line venues – and, plenty of bars – which are ready to accommodate you!

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