When I started my first full-time job, I asked my boss if I could log in to any personal accounts during the work-day, and he said that it was fine, and that he even does it himself. And indeed, I noticed that everyone else does it; from personal facebook to personal e-mail accounts to LinkedIn profiles, everybody does it with no real concern.

So my question is: what are the implications of logging into your personal accounts using your Employer's Internet connection / PC? Are there any concerns (such as privacy), or general guidelines that should be followed?

  • We're human, and humans are oft to err. You may be caught looking at inappropriate FB pics, you may accidentally email your boss something you meant to email to someone else. Oh it gets nasty May 14 '15 at 20:20
  • Even personal emails among coworkers can go awry. Read a story of two office mates who emailed each other sordid personal sexy stuff , accidentally CC'ing every1 May 14 '15 at 20:21
  • 3
    Can depend on the country. In the US there is no expectation of privacy. If you make a personal phone call the company listen. The company can monitor your network traffic. If they say it is OK to go FB does not mean they cannot monitor it. I am not an attorney. That is just my understanding.
    – paparazzo
    May 14 '15 at 20:25
  • 1
    @Adel I suppose I didn't consider human error when asking the question, but the concerns I am referring to are more to do with things that the employer can access once the employee logs in at least once. May 14 '15 at 20:26
  • 2
    I think you want to ask at security.stackexchange.com. That said, two examples: They can install software that captures an screenshot of your screen every 5 seconds. They can install a bogus CA, change the DNS and setup a fake FB; and the browser would not tell you that you are sending them your password (even with https).
    – SJuan76
    May 14 '15 at 20:32

In the US you have no expectation of privacy on work equipment unless otherwise stipulated. A hazy area is the use of work equipment at home but I would still error on the side of caution.

A long time ago when I managed our helpdesk I set up software that captured screen shots of employees. This could be set to every second to once a day. We did snapshots every 15 seconds most of the time. We could definitely read emails that you had up from personal accounts if they were on the screen. Also the software included a keystroke logger. We never used this at my work but it was available.

The screen shot software was used for two purposes. First to make sure employees were actually working during their shift. Not all of our employees had a supervisor on the clock with them. So if we got reports of an employee playing games all shift we might turn it on. The second is that an employee accusing another employee of bringing up improper things at work.

Note that we turned these things on. Some companies always have them on and some don't have the ability to turn them on. Purely company specific.

The more common issue is the use of router/proxy server at your work. I would not have the exact content but I would have the full use of the URLs you went to since all DNS requests would go through this. This is the most common thing that we look at with employees and is generally not that intrusive. We get IP logs for an address and see what DNS requests it made. Yes we see all sites but not what you were writing. Almost all employers have the ability to do this.

I know that our network team had to sign papers agreeing that if they found personal account information - really just passwords or account "secrets" - that they would not share or use that information in any way. So there was a degree of security behind it if you call it that. But really these were smart guys and they had your password if we turned on our spy programs.

Also note that about 5 years ago we started getting laptops equipped with spy software attached in the BIOS. So even if you reformat your laptop or do whatever with it we can find basic information from it if it is on the internet - it sends IP address, geolocation, logged on username, and last 100 DNS requests along with other stuff.

Should you check your Yahoo account at work? Sure. Should it have porn, nasty messages in it, other NSFW content or anything deragotory about your workplace. No way.

No one really cares about you looking at your email. It is really to what extent are you on email or facebook types of things. And also how harsh is the content. Will anyone say anything about your grandma's facebook posts about her latest recipes? No. Will people say something if they see your friends in swimsuits... Maybe.

You could just ask your boss and he will probably tell you the degree of monitoring. He could lie but most don't. I would expect that anything shown on your screen for longer than a second could be viewed by an employer. (And managers know that employees look at personal email and are OK with it. We also know that you open an email and then boom NSFW happens. Closing it right away is fine. This happening a lot is concern but otherwise its not a big deal. No one cares about your emails to your friends.)

  • This is indeed very intriguing. Legally speaking, shouldn't the employee be informed of this? May 15 '15 at 0:29
  • 2
    Some companies inform employees some don't. Legally in the US they don't have to. I think they do have to tell you the truth if you ask (this might be old policy though). 90%+ it is an employee that is really poor performing and playing games all day, on facebook all day, or running a side business. Most that are monitored are already on a performance plan. However one manager maybe 15 years ago couldn't figure out how an employee was beating his high score on Zuma so he had me monitor his screen - no joke.
    – blankip
    May 15 '15 at 4:23

BlankIP's answer is really good.

There is a very easy way to deal with this, though. Use your own device. If you don't have a "Smart phone," most companies have "guest" wireless networks available, or will allow approved users to use their own device.

You can get a cheap Android tablet to do everything you need for less that $100 in the U.S. It solves all these issues at once.

  • 2
    The guest network may or may not be subject to similar content restrictions. Find out your employer's policies.
    – keshlam
    May 15 '15 at 1:05
  • yeh, i'd stay away from the "guest" wireless, bc the company probably has a legal obligation to monitor that. But +1 for using your own smart device, its a pain but its what I use for personal data.
    – bharal
    Mar 16 '17 at 10:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .