How Do You Protect Yourself From Accidentally Sharing Private Data?

How Do You Protect Yourself From Accidentally Sharing Private Data?

We love our computers, but for many of us they house things we’d rather not share in public. That doesn’t mean our computers will keep those files private when we accidentally click in the wrong place. How do you protect yourself from these sorts of accidents?

I’ll give you a couple of anecdotes. Yesterday my friend called me to tell me a story. A friend of his mother’s visited to get a copy of a family video for her iPhone. When he plugged in her iPhone, his copy of iTunes immediately opened. He clicked on the videos tab by accident and the only video in his library playing. For simplicity’s sake we’ll say the video was pretty explicit and not what he wanted to open. I’d like to think that kind of incident could be prevented, and it’s one of the reasons I keep anything explicit or embarrassing on an external drive.

Regardless, an external drive doesn’t always help. Many years ago this same friend came across a pornographic photo that he was pretty sure contained his ex. He emailed this photo to me. It came in as I was arrowing through emails to mark them as read while in a meeting. His email being the last, the computer got stuck and my screen was filled with hardcore pornography. I tried to close it, so it didn’t work. My laptop was hooked up to a monitor that was facing everybody. I panicked and ripped the cord out. On the upside, only one person saw it. On the downside, that person was my boss. Fortunately, I had a pretty cool boss and we simply never spoke of it again.

The point is, technology can embarrass you when you least expect it and it seems prudent to be prepared. What are some of your most embarrassing moments with technology and how do you protect yourself from history repeating itself?


  • Truecrypt with all questionable material on it and a 5min auto dismount of the volume.

    As for the somebody’s questionable email appearing on the screen…. You should know better if your screen is visible (eg. in a meeting or plugged into a projector). Its just a matter of making sure you computer is ready to be handed over to be handled by the audience if need be. That normally means turning off all im/email/anything else with popups and a quick wipe of the browser/jump lists/closing windows.

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