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I worked a couple of years for a company as an external consultant. They gave me access to some platforms (planning apps, chats, etc...) and I opened an account for each of them using an email account they opened for me within their company.

I mean, let's call this company XYZ, they gave me an email account like [email protected] and I used this email to open all the other accounts they requested. Please note this email account is a gmail one.

Some days ago I sent the notice to close the collaboration within a month. I'm not sure what I can/should/must do in order to be polite but also to protect me against any improper use of my personal data (even involuntary).

  1. can I close all the accounts? Should I gather their permission first? What if they deny me to close the accounts?
  2. what if closing an account will destroy all the data associated? I.e. they may want to keep the chat history
  3. I'm afraid I cannot close the gmail account by myself (on this account the option under "data & privacy" is not there). Can I ask them to close it? How I can be sure they actually close it? I want to avoid anyone else can log in and send emails as he was me.
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    I don't get why you care if they close it or why you would want to close it. It is an account created by the company. The only thing associated with it should be company/business communication. If you used that account for personal/non-business related things, that is on you. The company has needs to preserve records and communications associated with that account. Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:52
  • @ThomasOwens don't assume what I didn't say :-) I used the account only for the company and ALL the emails I sent were in CC with the boss. But still there's my name on that address and I don't think it's so strange I don't want others use my name to send emails when I leave the company
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:58
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    Is there a specific reason you are worried they will send emails to someone as if they were from you? If so its worth adding those details to the question as there may be other ways to address that. If not, I wouldn't worry, it's their email address so little you can do Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 18:28
  • Where are you located? Whether the account [email protected] is 100% owned by the employer or should be considered at least partially personal depends a lot on the jurisdiction. In the EU named accounts usually fall under personal and the employer doesn't have the right to just look at the emails associated without consent (for example).
    – GACy20
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 13:57

4 Answers 4

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can I close all the accounts? Should I gather their permission first? What if they deny me to close the accounts?

You should get their permission. It's 100% up to their company policy. Your email account [email protected] belongs to the company.

If you still have access to your account now, you may want to delete emails that contain some personal info such as credit card number, online shopping sites, doctor appointments, etc...

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    So they can inspect all the emails and also send some using my ("their") account? Just to understand if there is come privacy or not.
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:30
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    You should never assume there is any privacy when using company resources. Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:54
  • @Mark, They won't logon to your account and pretend to be you to send out fake emails as that would be illegal. Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 18:56
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    @PhilipKendall That is jurisdiction specific. A German employee is perfectly entitled to assume there is privacy when using company resources. Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 7:03
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    @Mark They could also create an account on their domain name that matches anyone and send emails pretending to be that person, even if they never worked there. There's nothing stopping that except that it's illegal in most places and they just usually wouldn't do that. If you have anything you don't want them to read in your email account, delete it before you leave.
    – rooby
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 7:11
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To address a concern that you raised in comments:

But still there's my name on that address and I don't think it's so strange I don't want others use my name to send emails when I leave the company

Anyone can create an address and put your name on it. So you don't have to worry that this account lets the company use an address with your name on it; that's always something they could do.

However, it might be that some people currently (correctly) trust that this address is yours, and you're worried that the company will impersonate you to those people? That seems very unlikely to me, but if you're concerned about it, one option is to e-mail those people before handing off this address.

  • If these are people whose relationship is with the company, then you can e-mail them to let them know that you're leaving and that any further communications with the company should be handled via [appropriate person's name and e-mail address].
    • You can also set up an autoresponder to that effect.
    • This is a perfectly normal and professional thing to do, it should remove any reason that the company might want or need to use this address, and (almost as a side-effect) it will make it difficult for the company to impersonate you in this way even if they wanted to.
  • If these are people whose relationship is with you (because you used this e-mail address for some personal purposes), then you can e-mail them to let them know that your e-mail address will be changing to [new address], and then e-mail them from that address so it's conveniently in their e-mail contact history.
    • You'll want to delete all of those personal e-mails and contacts from the account before handing it over to the company.
    • This is also a perfectly normal thing to do, and while the company shouldn't care about your personal e-mails and certainly shouldn't want to impersonate you anyway (that would be bonkers!), this will prevent that as well.
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  • "You'll want to delete all of those personal e-mails and contacts from the account before handing it over to the company." I wouldn't do that. The mistake of using a work account for personal reasons already occurred. Hiding that usage can only make it worse. Without knowing exactly how and what they log, if they find out that you sent emails to an unknown individual and then hid the contents of those emails they may infer that you were hiding your sharing of proprietary information which may lead to legal headaches. Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 14:02
  • @DavidJacobsen: Interesting point! The intention of this suggestion wasn't to hide that the OP was using this account for personal reasons, but simply to remove the personal data from the account. I would expect the company to prefer this as well. For example, my employer's intranet page about resignation mentions that if we have a company-issued cellphone, we'll need to return it "wiped of personal information, including Apple ID and Google accounts". But yeah, I see how this could seem suspicious if the company isn't expecting it.
    – ruakh
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 15:29
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It makes sense that you are not able to close the account - it's not yours. The account, all the data associated with it, and any accounts with third-party services that you may have created to work for the company belong to the company. The data stored there may be important for the company to have access to after you are gone.

In my experience, a few things may happen after a person leaves. One thing that I've seen is that IT will set up an autoresponder to email for any incoming email directing senders to a person who is still at the company and leave the account enabled for a while in case it needs to be used to access third-party services. Another thing that I've seen is that the person's manager is granted access to the account, again usually for a handful of months just to make sure that it doesn't have data that is needed. Another thing that I've also seen is that IT archives the account and requests can be made to reenable it or access data. The options depend on who the account service provider is - for example, different options are available for in-house managed services versus Microsoft cloud services (Office 365) versus Google cloud services (Google Workspace).

Because the company keeps access, the common rule-of-thumb is to not use company-owned devices and/or company-issues email addresses for personal matters. Otherwise, companies will have information about and access to those accounts and you may not have a way to access them after leaving the company. The assumption should be that there is no privacy on work devices and that everything you do can be seen or reviewed by someone else, such as your manager or the company's IT department.

Unless you have a reason to suspect that the company will try to impersonate you, that's typically not a concern. Although I wouldn't be surprised if there were managers or companies out there that do such things, that would be a problem that I would try to solve if it comes up. If you find out that the company is impersonating you, especially if it can cause harm to your reputation and ability to seek employment in the future, you can seek further guidance from lawyers with expertise in the matter.

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  • Good points. I guess the main mis-understanding (for me) is I was not an employee but rather an external consultant (I sent them the invoices with my own VAT ID). And I naively thought that would make a difference. Instead, seen all the answers, it seems I was wrong.
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 9:33
  • @Mark I would argue that does make a difference. But using an email account provided by your client for those other accounts muddies things. The email account is theirs. The other accounds? Not necessarily, I'd say. But at first glance it seems reasonable to me to transfer those accounts to them. I'm not exactly sure what you're worried about. You mentioned a fear of them pretending to be you from the email account, but what stops them from making [email protected] and pretending to be you now or ever?
    – marcelm
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 13:32
  • @marcelm actually I have no "fear" neither anything to hide, really. But since I had to be extremely carefully about privacy, what I can do and what I cannot, now that I leave the job I'd like they do the same. So I'm just trying to understand what are my rights.
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 14:28
  • By the way, I'm in Italy but I'm not asking anything about legal stuff, just about politeness, common sense and professionals.
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 14:28
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protect me against any improper use of my personal data

Review each account and remove anything personal.

While you're removing your personal info you should also change the password for each account to something random using a password generator and document the password.

At the end of your contract, hand off these accounts to the company.

If the company is respectable then they would only use the GMAIL to find archived communications. If you feel they are not respectable then you can try playing the "GMAIL is for personal use only" card and create a sizeable headache for yourself.

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