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I'm a software analyst with a relevant work history, which means that I (like others) have a large collection of bookmarks with useful links and resources that are useful during my work (along, of course, with numerous links of funny pictures of cats).

Now, let's assume I get to work for a new company, where I am responsible for the administration of my own computer: should I use my personal browser and stack overflow (sic) accounts during my working hours, or not?

Assuming that I actually talk with my employer and I get the explicit consent to do so (it would be for the mutual benefit, after all), is there something specific I should ask her (ownership of the personal data is one, but there could be other I didn't think about it)?

I would be eager to know how great is the potential for conflicting situations, and what's your take on this matter.

Thanks!

UPDATE: I haven't been specific enough so it's worth mentioning that I wouldn't use my browser's account in order to access personal links or do leisure browsing, instead the question is more aimed at the ownership of bookmark data.

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    Related reading: Company policy violation due to browser history syncing (not a duplicate; this question is what-should-I-do, that question is what-do-I-do-now) – apsillers Jan 6 '17 at 16:11
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    Avoid the potential drama and just email yourself the bookmarks you want – Chris G Jan 6 '17 at 16:44
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    Bookmarks are not intellectual property any more than a library index card is. – Wildcard Jan 6 '17 at 20:48
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    @Wildcard: interesting point of view, and I'd agree in principle. Not sure if it would hold when court tested, though... :( – R1ck77 Jan 6 '17 at 21:23
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    I'm thoroughly confused why you think "intellectual property" comes into this, or why Wildcard's comment would ever be "court tested". Can you explain exactly what kind of situation you're thinking you might find yourself in? – Anthony Grist Jan 6 '17 at 23:30
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I would recommend against using your personal browser account.

Most workplaces make you sign an IT agreement that allows them full access to anything you do on their machines, and the ability to monitor your activity and browsing history. I am going to assume that your browser is Chrome, since I don't know of another browser that uses accounts. Along with all of your bookmarks and stored settings, signing into Chrome also copies over all of your personal browsing history.

This means that your employer can see any and all websites you have visited on your home computer during your personal time. It is very likely that some of these websites are explicitly forbidden to be accessed on company machines, and it could cause some confusion if your employer found them in the browsing history on your work machine (see this question as an example). Aside from the policy aspect, I don't want my employer to know all of the websites I visit during my free time for things completely unrelated to work.

I recommend using your browser at work without signing in to your account. It will be a little hassle to set up all of your bookmarks and settings again, but that's a one-time cost to give you some privacy. By the way, you can still sign into Google websites without signing into the Chrome browser, but you may need to explicitly tell it not to.

@Andrew Berry and @AndreiROM pointed out that in Chrome you are able to define which settings are synced, so you could use your account and sync your bookmarks, but not your history, passwords, credit cards, etc.

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    You can go into the Advanced Sync Settings in Chrome and choose what is synce'd to your work pc. See attached screengrab i.imgur.com/OqXJxGn.png I would also suggest that companies don't track internet usage based on histories stored on PC's as these can be cleared easily. – Andrew Berry Jan 6 '17 at 14:13
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    @r1ck77 - I use my personal chrome account on my work machine, and simply ensure that browsing history/passwords/CC-info, etc. do not sync. I don't see any issues with it, really. I mean, companies are not typically actively trying to spy on their employees and steal their information. Some people go as far as not to even sign into their personal email on their work machines, but it all just depends on how much you trust your employer. – AndreiROM Jan 6 '17 at 14:17
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    @R1ck77 Yes, I still think it would be worth the hassle, which is really not much hassle at all. All you have to do is export your bookmarks and then load them in again. I think it's perfectly fine to access personal accounts on a work computer, so long as you don't mind your employer knowing that you visited those sites. IANAL, but I believe (in the US at least) that you don't even need to sign away permission for your company to be allowed to look through your account on company owned computers. – David K Jan 6 '17 at 14:19
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    "I am going to assume that your browser is Chrome, since I don't know of another browser that uses accounts." - Firefox does so, too. (And like Chrome, it allows you to choose which things to sync and which not to sync; sync options are Tabs, Bookmarks, Passwords, History, Add-ons, and Preferences. However, unlike Chrome I believe it encrypts all synced data (not just passwords) so Mozilla can't access your browser history and use it for e.g. personalized advertisements). – user2428118 Jan 7 '17 at 13:27
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    @Andrew "I use my personal chrome account on my work machine, and simply ensure that browsing history/passwords/CC-info, etc. do not sync". What value do you get from your account after you've disabled all of that? Seems like you'd be just as well off without signing into your account at that point. – Voo Jan 7 '17 at 13:44
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It depends on the internet usage policy at your new workplace.

Most places are fairly relaxed when it comes to people's internet usage (within limits), and some place more controls in place and block certain types of websites (or block the internet as a whole).

You don't really have to be upfront and ask, the information of acceptable internet use should be available to you when you start.

If you ask, it might be taken as your personal internet browsing to be an important part of your working day...

  • Thanks you for your contribution! I have good reason to think that in my industry internet usage is bound to be liberal (as you suggested), bar explicitly inappropriate illegal content. – R1ck77 Jan 6 '17 at 13:22
  • I have updated the question, however, as I think I was sort of misleading. – R1ck77 Jan 6 '17 at 13:28
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As long as you are not violating company specific IT policies on Internet Use (i.e. Using the internet for personal use on company time), then it shouldn't be an issue using these accounts.

If you are posting code related queries on SO though, be sure to anonymise data and not to post too much code (the bare minimum required) as the intellectual property of the code does belong to the company.

Edit: For your bookmarks etc, and accounts like SO etc, that information would still belong to yourself. The company don't have a valid claim to this information presuming these accounts have been created using a personal email/social media account.

  • Thank you for your contribution! Yes, I wouldn't do that, but it's always good to be reminded. – R1ck77 Jan 6 '17 at 13:23
  • As noted in another comment, I have updated the question, as I think I was sort of misleading – R1ck77 Jan 6 '17 at 13:29
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No, absolutely not. Do not use your personal equipment or accounts for company work.

  • From the company perspective, it creates a security vulnerability.
  • From your perspective, in the case of an investigation, the company may legally be able to seize your personal equipment, and obtain passwords for your accounts.
  • From an employment perspective, you can be held accountable for damage to the company.

If you need your bookmarks, then send them to your work computer, and use them from there. Company policy may block certain sites, but that's their policy; they're paying you, and part of your job is to toe the line with their policies.

Especially in today's day and age, where all the big companies (including the U.S. Government) are getting hacked, everyone is hyper-sensitive about security, and using personal stuff for work is a blood-red flag.

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    Thank you for your contribution, although my situation would be a little different, as I work in Italy, so less strict regulations. Also I would red flag companies with hard IT policies anyway: I would hardly work for a company that doesn't allow me to completely manage my own computer (or at least install programs at user level), as I think this kind of freedom is beneficial for my job. I completely agree with your arguments where they apply, though (and good idea that of emailing the relevant bookmarks). – R1ck77 Jan 6 '17 at 20:18
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    Managing your own computer is a mixed blessing. Yes, you have the freedom to install whatever you want, but you're also responsible if you pick up malware. Be sure to have an antivirus program installed, keep it updated, and run scans regularly. Viruses don't care if you're in Italy! Also good practice is to set up a standard "user" account--with limited rights--for everyday use, and only log in as "Admin" if you have a good reason. Of course, be sure to back up your data, even if only to a USB key. Call me cautious, but I've had to reinstall far too many computers because of a stupid virus. – kmiklas Jan 6 '17 at 22:24
  • ...I must add that backing up to a USB key raises further security concerns; most obviously: losing it! Perhaps better to recommend backing up important stuff to the company servers. – kmiklas Jan 6 '17 at 22:32
  • virus do care if you use Linux, though (well... mostly. Linux does have viruses too) ;-) Even though they apply mostly for a windows environment (where it's probably most common to use admin accounts regularly, as I do from home) thank you for the tips! I agree also on the "mixed blessing", though for different reasons (no matter the Os you are using, if you mess it up, you still need to fix, possibly in your own private time...). – R1ck77 Jan 6 '17 at 22:35
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    Also I would advise against backing up on a USB device, especially if you are in a very security-aware company, as that would be probably seen as an attempt to either steal company material, or introduce malware ;-) (and I would expect such a company to provide some kind of backed-up space, anyway). – R1ck77 Jan 6 '17 at 22:36

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