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Personal business on your employer's systems 

No matter where you work, what your job situation, or how innocent your activities -- there are serious legal and privacy issues with using your employer's IT facilities for your personal business. The email accounts and files (and the email and file backup archives -- which may cover years) all legally belong to your employer, not to you. Important personal emails may be discarded as spam or phishing by the company firewall. There are also identity-theft and data-loss risks.

You must untangle your personal business from your employer's systems. This is for your employer's sake as well as your own.

Note: This is not a theoretical discussion -- and not privacy paranoia. This is based on personal experiences reported by our members.

You have no legal expectation of privacy or data reliability when you use your employer's IT facilities. (Extreme example: 500,000 Enron employee emails were made public as a result of the bankruptcy -- internal battles, love notes and all. They still are searchable online.)

Spinoffs and acquisitions can cause your personal email to go astray. Emails get this reply: "Recipient address rejected: User unknown in virtual alias table" -- which may not be passed on to the sender (and may be interpreted unfavorably if passed on.)

Even if you leave on good terms with your employer, your access to company systems and your company email account stop well before your last hour. Cases have been reported where it stopped -- without warning -- on the day before the last day... or even weeks earlier. Assurances from managers have proven to be irrelevant -- your manager does not have control over IT.

Untangling your personal business from your employer's systems takes a couple of months to do


Your account on the company email system

If you have any personal correspondence directed to your email account at work, you must change this.

Wherever you work, it is a bad idea to use your company email address for your personal email:

- You run the risk of losing your account connections -- including not only critical ones (like those with LinkedIn or financial institutions) but also seemingly-trivial ones that can be a hassle to straighten out, like the public library or Netflix. You can also lose your personal address book.

- An unfortunate email subject line (or sender name) may be visible on your desktop or notebook screen while you are talking to someone or making a presentation.

Even if you don't plan to leave your employer, you should move any personal email activity and directory entries out of your company email account.

We recommend that you include your personal email address as primary or secondary address on your LinkedIn account.

After your last day, your employer's email system will say that it has never heard of you 

However you left, any email autoreply that you have set up will be probably be immediately disabled.

People who send you email will either receive no reply -- or your ISP will forward your former employer's error message to them.
For example, HP sends this ominous reply: "Recipient address rejected: User unknown in virtual alias table."
Because your former employer's reply looks like spam or junk, it may not reach your correspondent at all.

How to switch your personal email

You must start now -- this normally takes a couple of months.

If you have time to switch... Once you have your new account set up, you can watch your incoming email and change addresses with businesses and people. After a few months, you will have switched over the stuff you really want.

If you don't have months to switch... Search your email for correspondence related to banking, e-commerce such as Amazon, friends, etc.

If you have any personal correspondence directed to your email account at work, notify the people and businesses you correspond with ASAP. Change account settings for services -- including internal services like the employee purchase discount program.

Create a spreadsheet with a list of all websites that you have accounts on that are registered to your company email address so you can keep track. Prioritize accounts (such as financial accounts) that you need to change before you lose access to your company email account.

It is best to change all accounts before you lose access to your company email account. Most websites will allow you to change your email address at any time -- if you know your password. However, if you don’t remember your password for a given site, you’ll need to reset it from your old email account before you lose access. And there are exceptions -- for example, craigslist -- that require access to your old email account in order to authorize an email address change.

You must allow time for this lengthy and tedious process-- most such changes require you to confirm by replying to an email sent to your old address.

How to set up a professional email account

Advice from members on getting a private, professional email account on Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, or Apple -- and choosing a professional email username, go here: How to set up professional email.

If you wish, you can have your personal email address forwarded to your email address at your employer. But company email systems often have crude anti-spam mechanisms that reject email newsletters you signed up for -- and you still have the privacy and data-loss issues.  


Files on the company computer

Whether or not you are leaving your employer, make copies of any personal files on your PC, take them home, and use your personally-owned computer for that work.

Members point out that just copying .pst files will not copy anything located on the central Exchange server -- Tasks, Contacts, Notes, Calendar items, personal emails.
To retrieve your personal items, you must:
1. Create a new .pst file for personal information. See
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/create-an-outlook-data-file-pst-to-save-your-information-HA010355677.aspx
2. Copy your Tasks, Contacts, Notes and Calendar folders and any personal messages in your Inbox to the new .pst file.
3. Copy this .pst file and any other .pst files containing personal information to a thumb drive.

Several members lost their address books, personal contact lists, and personal files (such as the records of a non-profit they worked with) due to their employer unexpectedly collecting their notebook or desktop from them -- or IT, management, or other employees removing equipment from their office in their absence.

Passwords are irrelevant -- by the time they found out, their hard drive had been wiped clean.

Many companies now have the ability to access company PCs and mobile devices remotely. Your data can be wiped while the equipment is still in your physical possession.


The Hewlett-Packard Alumni Association is an independent volunteer organization of former HP, HP Inc, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise employees – and current employees in the process of leaving. Operated by former employees who volunteer their time. Not officially endorsed or supported. 
 

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