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Today at work, I stumbled upon a collection of private photos taken by my two bosses (they are a married couple, and own the business). The photos in question are of a lewd nature of one of them.

It is part of my role to organise and keep the file storage clean ("clean"), so it is not out of place for me to look around in random folders.

How should I move forward in this situation? Should I delete the photos and say nothing, should I tell my bosses about my discovery, or should I do nothing and try to move on like nothing happened?

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    Are the photos in question on a server (where other employees may have access) or on the bosses personal work-laptop/desktop? – iLuvLogix Mar 3 at 7:46
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    @iLuvLogix They are on a server, anybody can access these files – BurnerPhotography Mar 3 at 9:59
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    How likely is it for your co-workers to run into those images? – Salman A Mar 4 at 13:59
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I have run into exactly this issue where I came across some personal files that a coworker had accidentally (I assume) copied to a public folder. I sent my coworker an email and let them know the files were there and that anyone could access them. They were very appreciative and took care of it immediately.

Don’t make this more complicated than it has to be. Let them know privately about the issue and then let them handle it. If it was unsecured company proprietary information or something illegal, then it would require more intervention. You don’t have to explain what the contents of the files are... Just say that you stopped looking as soon as you realized they were personal.

I would act as if the pictures you found were innocuous but personal, for example, pictures of their vacation. I would send their owner an email (or some other text communication so they can easily copy the path to the files) that says something to the effect of “I stumbled across what seem to be some personal files of yours in this public folder. I just wanted to make sure you knew that they were there in case it was an accident.” Don’t let on that you know the files were particularly sensitive, because it needlessly complicates things.

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    I wouldn't mention the lewd photo at all. Instead I would just send a email, "Boss, FYSA, I notice a folder on the public drive that contains your personal photos. Anyone can access them. Thanks." – Dan Mar 3 at 17:07
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    +1 for "keep it private". Unless there are legal concerns, there's no reason to mention it to anyone beside your boss. I'd pick the boss that you have a better relationship with, and quietly pull them aside (verbally, if possible). – Lindsey D Mar 3 at 17:17
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    @Dan exactly what I meant about not mentioning the content... it would be kinder to pretend that you didn’t see anything that might embarrass them. – ColleenV Mar 3 at 17:20
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    You'll be surprised how often people accidentally drag folders. I've done it by accident once or twice and it was like "Gosh, where did my folder just go?" – Nelson Mar 4 at 6:39
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    @LindseyD Or better, if you can tell which boss put them there, contact that boss. In this way you potentially avoid causing an argument between a married couple for having uploaded the photos in the first place. – Jon Bentley Mar 4 at 13:25
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I do wonder about the circumstances of your discovery. Is this particular aspect of your job intended to make sure that storage space isn't exhausted or is it to make sure that people aren't engaging in appropriate activities on the company dime?

If the former then it doesn't seem like you'd need to open up any of the files. You could just report to a higher up, saying "there's 500GB of data in this directory - can we delete it or back it up and delete it?" or some such.

If the latter then... are these files accessible by everyone or just by you and the owners? If the former then I'd tell the owners asap. Like who knows, maybe other people have already come across the files and just not told them. If the latter then I'd probably just forget what I saw and consider anything accessible only by the three of y'all as being exempt from your searches henceforth.

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    These are files accessible to all staff, and unfortunately it is a small business, so the higher ups are the bosses. The fiddly part is that we have a very unorganised file structure (which part of my role involves reorganising and sorting), so I normally have to look at each individual file to see where it should go, or if it is deletable. – BurnerPhotography Mar 3 at 10:01
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    @BurnerPhotography then you most certainly should tell the boss as a strongly suggested hint to have a look at this directory and mention in its current situation everyone has access to it. – morbo Mar 3 at 11:23
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    @Flater No, no, no. Make sure the bosses have cleaned up their personal photos before sending the reminder, because the reminder will send other employees to see what's there. – Russell Borogove Mar 3 at 21:12
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The important thing is to be as discreet as possible. It would be best if you could avoid them thinking you know the content of the pictures at all. Hopefully, you stopped viewing them when you realized what the content of one of them was. Depending on the contents of the folder, you may be able to get away with an innocuous email about image files being stored in a public folder. I'm assuming you can tell which of the owners created the files by looking at the properties.

Case 1: The owners think the files may be private (e.g. they're in a folder \\computer\\share\\BossName), but they don't realize the folder is public. In this case, you could simply email them saying they have a public folder shared and ask them if they would like to make it private, then you could simply alter the permissions and not hint that you've looked at any of the files.

Case 2: The images are in a folder where there probably shouldn't be images, e.g. they're in \\computer\\share\\Spreadsheets. You could email the person that created the files, saying there are a bunch of image files in this directory and ask if the images belong in a Spreadsheets folder, or if they should be moved somewhere else.

Case 3: It is REALLY messy, all kinds of files are in the folder and they don't clearly belong to one of the Bosses. In this case you could email them saying the public folder is full of a mishmash of file types and tell them you'd like to separate them by type like images, spreadsheets, text files and ask them to take a look since they created some of those files.

In all cases, I think you should be discreet. If they come right out and ask you if you viewed any of the images, you should tell the truth:

Yes, I opened one not knowing what the content might be and wanted to save you any embarrassment by letting you handle it. These are public files at the moment and any user in the network could stumble across them so we should move them or protect them so people don't have access.

This is assuming that you didn't spend 30 minutes viewing all the pictures like a creep :)

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I think that you should simply, and somewhat-cryptically, let the couple know that maybe they should take a look in "this particular folder." And let it go at that.

And, be discreet. Never tell anyone else.

They're a married couple, and they're the business owners. If they want to be kinky, that's their business.

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