I am all for information sharing and I am all for lots of information. But I am also a huge fan of restraint and proportion. Not everybody needs to obtain all information and not all possible information is needed to still do a good job.
This week I was treated to some information I did not ask for, I did not need and seemed company confidential. I was sitting in an aisle seat on a flight back to Amsterdam and two rows in front of me on the other side was a man who opened a very good laptop. Sparkling colours, sharp image and readable fonts. He was browsing through his emails and I couldn’t make out what the content of those emails was, from where I was sitting. I’m pretty sure the people closer to the man could.
Then he opened a PowerPoint attachment. Now this I could read. I could see clearly the company name, the region (EMEA) and the titles of the graphs on the slides (costs, proceeds, units). Not only that, the axis numbers were also pretty clear.
One graph after another was reviewed by the man, sometimes going back to the email and adding some comments. I could see that the weekly sales had dropped significantly the last couple of weeks. I could see the countries most affected as well as the product groups.
There were also some spreadsheet-like slides with lots of rows and columns. Too small to read from two rows down, but the colours at least were indicative. My PDA no doubt could have made a sharp image of them and then: zoom! all the data I need.
Well, I didn’t need the info in the first place so I didn’t take the picture. I was thinking of taking it to put on this blog, but then the info would be all over the place. And the man was already doing a good job of spreading confidential information around.
Next to me, on the other side of the aisle, was just one man occupying three seats (I hate that, when it’s not me). He needed the room. He had a laptop, an iPad, a Blackberry and to top it off a PDA. I am not kidding you. And all of them were up and running. I bet there was quite a bit of confidential information visible for the people behind him.
Information sharing can be good, but please use restraint and don’t throw it around. If you really need to use confidential information in a public place, then use great caution. Use something like a privacy filter which will darken the screen for everybody except you. I’m sure your boss will allow you to put that on your expense report.