Leaking confidential info is common, workers say

Misuse of confidential files found more fire-able than managers having sex with employees

Removing confidential files from the workplace tops the list of what workers dread most in work situations, a new survey from Harris Interactive and FileTrek shows. Yet, 90 percent of Americans admit they believe it's being done.

More than 2,000 American adults age 18 and older were polled. Seventy-two percent said leaking information makes them worried in the workplace, followed by knowing a coworker has shared confidential information outside the company and have managers confront them about it (53 percent).

The only job offenses that ranked higher than removal of confidential information as grounds for termination were sexually harassing a coworker (85 percent) and incompetence on the job (82 percent) – and not by much. Adults found this misuse of confidential files more of a fire-able offense than managers having sex with an employee (64 percent) or not doing what their boss instructs (57 percent).

“Business leaders need to be aware of the changing attitudes toward intellectual property in the modern workplace,” said Dale Quayle, CEO of FileTrek. “Today’s workforce believes information is an asset to be shared, and while companies have benefited from this collaborative attitude with new technologies and increased productivity, there are risks, too. Few cloud services provide the security necessary to track where their confidential data goes. It’s critical for today’s management teams to be more IP aware to ensure data security.”

The study also shows a generational gap in attitudes toward handling confidential files in the workplace. While a majority (68 percent) of the Millennial generation (those age 18-34) believe it is acceptable to remove confidential files out of the office, only 50 percent of the 55+ age group believe the same. Adults 55 and older are significantly more likely to believe someone should be fired for taking confidential information than their younger counterparts (86 percent vs. 74 percent of those ages 18-54).

Though 40 percent of adults believe it is never acceptable to remove confidential company information out of the office, the report found there are circumstances for which they believe it is acceptable:

  • 48% - when boss says it’s OK to do so
  • 32% - to finish a late night project from home instead of having to stay at the office
  • 30% - to work over the weekend or while on vacation
  • 16% - when it is confidential information about themselves
  • 2% - when it can be brought back to the office before the boss knows it was gone
  • 2% - to show something to family or friends who promise to keep it confidential

Most adults stated that if they were going to risk taking documents, they listed exporting the data to a USB drive (55 percent) as the most popular manner.


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