Protect your privacy when leaving a job; plus, Duncan Fraser

I’m not an expert on personal security, but I do know that computers can tell other people a lot about you, if you let them. The best option, of course, is to not do personal stuff on work computers, or to do personal stuff via the web so that nothing is stored locally (except perhaps in the cache). However, that’s a perfect world scenario; in reality, there are plenty of reasons why you might visit some websites you like while you’re at work, and log in to them, or go check your webmail, or run a chat program.

So, here are the steps I’m taking to erase my existence from the office computers.

First, and most obviously, I’m removing my logins. This will delete any files I’ve saved (I tend to email myself files rather than save them locally, but this will catch anything I’ve missed), plus it will destroy my bookmarks, visited links, and Internet cache.

Since my work email contains a few exchanges that may be helpful to my boss, I am leaving those in and deleting all the other messages–both in the Sent mail and in my archive folders. I am moving the email pst files out of my login so they will be saved when I delete the login.

I have uninstalled all programs that I installed for my own use. This includes AIM, a couple of FTP programs, and the GIMP. The purpose of this is to remove any identifying information that may have been stored in those programs (not the GIMP so much, but one of the FTP programs was storing a login of mine even after I told it not to). This also cleans up the computer for the next user, who might have no idea what all those programs are for. It’s a nice thing to do.

I am also deleting the Cookies, Temporary Internet Files and History on other users’ accounts if I have ever used them to access my own stuff. (I really haven’t done this much, because I was thinking ahead, but sometimes for the sake of time I would just leave the computer logged in as someone else while I was using it, so they could easily start work when they came in.)

Finally, I’m removing my mp3s. No one listened to them but me, anyway.

Update 2005/04/11 12:25pm! The comments on this post are nothing but a Duncan discussion. For ease of later searching, I wanted to mention that fact here in the post text.

(Nobody came in to say, “Wow, Heather, thanks for the tips!” Maybe because the tips really aren’t all that amazing…)