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Company Laptop, My Data — Can They Co-exist?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the only-with-a-chore-schedule dept.

Privacy 395

An anonymous reader writes "I recently replaced my old laptop. The owner of my company heard about this and offered to reimburse me for it, since he knows I have and will continue to do company work on my own hardware. I'd like the extra $1,250, but I think if I accept his offer that legally he has the right to any data on it (personal emails, files, blog posts, etc.). Even if I decide to put my personal stuff on a second drive, I'm worried that using company property to save and write to separate storage still gives them the right to it. The apps (Office, etc.) are my own licenses. We do not have a policy that intellectual property developed using company assets belongs to the company. But, if I figured out the One Great Internet Business Idea or write the Great American Novel and used the company laptop to do it, it's an avenue they could use to claim they own it. Unlikely, but scary. How many Slashdotters have been in this situation, and what agreement did you and your management come up with?"

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Simple... (2, Insightful)

silent_artichoke (973182) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202399)

Use the laptop to remote in to your home computer and do your personal business on there.

Re:Simple... (2, Insightful)

charleste (537078) | more than 5 years ago | (#29203035)

You're using their bandwidth if you do this. Ergo, you are still using company resources. I have been in a similar situation. Nutshell solution for me? Just keep as you are, don't accept the $$. If they want you to back up your work, have them shell out for an external drive and backup the corporate work there, and only the corporate work.

Have them make it a bonus (5, Interesting)

Binestar (28861) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202413)

If they just want to reward you for working on your own hardware, a bonus is the way to go.

Re:Have them make it a bonus (5, Informative)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202715)

Exactly. We've done this at my company. Take the laptop or cash as part of compensation and there will be no legal issues because it will become a personal possession and not the company's. Get it in writing so there's no debate.

In the poster's particular case, receive the $1250 as a simple bonus. Have them write a letter backing that up.

Re:Have them make it a bonus (1)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 5 years ago | (#29203099)

While taking the cash is an option, taking the laptop or using the cash to buy a laptop that he then uses for company work (and storage of company data) put him in the same position. If they want you to work non-traditional hours, have them give you separate equipment, or VNC or whatever in and work on their system, saving their data to their remote boxes. (And obviously regardless of whether it's a laptop or cash, it still means paying the extra taxess.)

Re:Have them make it a bonus (5, Informative)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202725)

Exactly. Your company has three options.

1. A payment in the amount of the computer. It goes not your income taxes as a bonus.
2. They transfer ownershhip to you. It goes on your income taxes as non-cash compensation for the value of the computer. It is your property afterwards; they can't take it back when you quit.
3. They issue you a company laptop. It remains their property; if you quit, you have to return it.

For 1 and 2, the computer is yours, and you can do whatever you like. Just like your car and your TV, which were purchased with money from your paycheck. The company has no say in what you do with the computer afterwards. You could even immediately sell them on eBay (though they'd probably be unhappy and demand the money back, and might fire you if you refused to pay them.)

For 3, you shouldn't do anything personal on it, nor should you install any of your own licensed software on it..

Re:Have them make it a bonus (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202841)

That means it's taxable. If they make it an expenses item, then it isn't[1]. If you are using it for 80% work and 20% personal use then you can probably either get them to pay 80% of it under expenses or you can just offset 80% of the cost against tax. Alternatively, the company could buy the laptop and then lease and finally sell it to you for a nominal fee (say, $1/year with the option to buy for $1 after the first year).

[1] I am not an accountant, this varies depending on jurisdiction, for your jurisdiction this may be entirely wrong. Shake well before opening, keep refrigerated.

Today is "National Remember Mary Jo Kopechne Day" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202921)

If he'd been "Edward Smith" instead of "Edward Kennedy," both his career and his freedom would've ended on that day. You know I speak the truth.

Don't *put* your data on it. (2, Funny)

goffster (1104287) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202417)

Use online web stuff.

Re:Don't *put* your data on it. (2, Insightful)

netruner (588721) | more than 5 years ago | (#29203057)

Or get a USB stick, or an external hard drive. A lot of this depends on your company's IT policies. It sounds like you work for a small company, so I would guess that you don't have much in the way of a computing security or config management department. If you're at one of those companies where you go to the "computer guy" , get an IP for your machine and away you go, they probably won't know/care if you have external storage for your machine.

But for heaven's sake, if you insist on keeping your stuff on the C: drive, put a self-destruct program on it that securely wipes your "Great American Novel" should your machine be seized by your corporate overlords.

Just make sure you have a ton of the nastiest (but keep it legal) pr0n on it when they do their initial checkout. That way it makes it harder for them to claim that you were surfing for that stuff at work. (You: "It was already there when the machine became a company asset")

Easy Solution (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202421)

Unlikely, but scary.

Your fears are not unfounded. As someone who has had "e-mail forensics" done on his company's MS Exchange during an investigation of a coworker, I can assure you that while it may not be something that you've done to trigger this it does happen. And nobody wants to be in a compromising position should their relationship with their employer goes bad.

So your solution is simple: send him an e-mail explaining that this new laptop is going to function as your main personal laptop with family photos and videos and whatnot. Tell him that you'd love to accept the $1,250 as an award or included with your next paycheck as special compensation but the laptop won't be inventoried or tagged by the company. Make it clear it's your property and not a company asset. Offer to bring in the invoice for him to look at if he's concerned you're buying a car with it instead and get it in writing. If you get the money awarded to you to do with as you see fit but you have an informal agreement that this will go toward your personal laptop, everything should be fine.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

laughing rabbit (216615) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202549)

Unlikely, but scary.

Your fears are not unfounded.

What he said!

I do not even let the company pay for my cell phone. Just make sure my paycheck covers what I do for the company.

Re:Easy Solution (5, Informative)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202761)

Speaking as someone with experience in the digital forensics field (and I have personally done far more than e-mail forensics mentioned above), if the courts find out that you do company work on your personal laptop, you are a subpoena away from having to produce it, with or without the $1,250 bonus. If you brought a personal external hard drive into work one day and someone saw you use it, you could have to produce that. Depending on how good your lawyer is compared to theirs, you may be able to have your personal items undergo a privilege process, but that doesn't mean that some forensics expert isn't going to be taking a complete copy of your hard drive and presenting findings about (but not the actual relevant data until approved or ordered by the courts) your laptop usage.

Essentially if you get sued by your employer, it looks better if you just spread em wide and hope for the vaseline. There is no 'innocent until proven guilty' in civil courts, it's all about the 'preponderance of evidence' which means that if you can't say more about your innocence than they can about you're guilt, you're guilty.

Re:Easy Solution (-1, Redundant)

eth1 (94901) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202983)


Just take the $1250 and buy another laptop.

Re:Easy Solution (4, Insightful)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202975)

So your solution is simple:

Yes, it is. However, I'd offer that the solution is different than what you suggest. The simplest thing to do would be, have your employer buy you ANOTHER $1250 laptop expressly for work. Problem solved. Now you have an "air gap" between your life, and work life.

Why complicate things?

No, it cannot (4, Informative)

Knara (9377) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202427)

If there's doubt, then you cannot.

Just ask (1)

Vrykoulakas (706735) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202435)

Tell them you'd like to take him up on his offer, it's very generous, but tell him how you fell about the situation and that you lay claim to all your data. If there's no IP agreement you had to sign before then they'd have no legal basic to lay claim to it. P.S. IANAL so I could be mistaken.

Re:Just ask (2, Insightful)

chaboud (231590) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202765)

P.S. IANAL so I could be mistaken.

That's the most important part of your post. I'm not a lawyer either, but I'm fairly confident that materials developed on company time or company property are defined as "work product" in a "work for hire" environment. I'd be extremely wary of presuming natural rights. The law is rarely completely reasonable, and work product is no exception.

Re:Just ask (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202939)

This whole entire discussion is fucking retarded. You guys are saying that somebody should turn down a nice little chunk of cash, especially in this economy, because they can't wait until they get home to their desktop to JACK OFF.

That's right, the submitter can't even wait to get home to look at his bestiality, guro, child pornography, snuff films, and whatever other horrors get his rocks off. He must have it on a laptop so he can take "bathroom breaks" every 20 minutes, emerging from the restroom sweaty and crusted with semen half-assedly washed off with shea butter soap.

The submitter's wife sighs when he gets home. That's because their kids always ask, "Mommy, why does daddy always stay in the office with the door locked?" and "Mommy, why does daddy yell at us when we try to open the door? Why won't daddy come out?"

He dosen't go to bed until 2am when he, flaccid as his own overworked penis, flops onto the bed like a malnourished meth-addict coming down from a weeklong binge.

His wife often gets up and goes to sleep on the couch when this happens, and it happens often.

captcha: spurted

That's easy. (2, Informative)

nighty5 (615965) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202455)


As easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29203105)

No personal computers connecting to company network. Period.

Easy (2, Informative)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202459)

Don't do it.

Re:Easy (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202555)

Seriously, don't mix personal and work.
You gotta be seven kinds of stupid to think it's a good idea to get the company to pay for your FAP machine.

Basic Copyrights (0)

thethibs (882667) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202469)

Nice thing about the Berne Convention—Your work is born yours unless you've signed away your rights to it.

Re:Basic Copyrights (1)

martinw89 (1229324) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202643)

I'm pretty sure he understands that. His concern is that accepting the offer may be interpreted as signing away his rights to anything created on the laptop.

Re:Basic Copyrights (2, Insightful)

Zordak (123132) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202903)

A copyright assignment must be in writing. The exception is if it is work done by an employee in the course and scope of employment, but I doubt that writing the Great American Novel is in his job description. And if it were, the company would own it, whether or not they reimburse him for the laptop. So, while I hasten to point out that this is not legal advice, if the company owns your copyrights, they probably already own it by virtue of the employment agreement. They cannot purchase your copyrights by reimbursing you for a laptop. Note that there may, of course, be other ramifications. For example, if the laptop is "their" property, they may acquire certain "shop rights" if you use it to develop a technology that you later patent. And of course, the real answer is "get a lawyer if you're concerned about it." Of course, hiring a lawyer can easily exceed the reimbursement you get, so you've got to look at the tradeoffs.

Re:Basic Copyrights (1)

RattFink (93631) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202737)

It really isn't that cut and dried. If work is "a work for hire", the company owns the copyright irrespective of if the employee signed away anything or not. The bar for work for hire is pretty low it simply needs to be "a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment". An employee could attempt to argue that using company resources constitutes it being under the scope of the employment.

Re:Basic Copyrights (1)

RattFink (93631) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202817)

Dang it. Employee in the last sentence should read employer.

Don't do it. (2, Insightful)

digitalmonkey2k1 (521301) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202471)

I wont even allow my company to reimburse me for flash drives for this reason. It's way better to be safe when it comes to your personal data.

What tracking is on your laptop??? (1)

Silentknyght (1042778) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202499)

And how would your company know you used the laptop do to X, Y, or Z? If its on your own time and if the laptop is devoid of big-brother-like apps, I fail to see how they could even begin to make a claim for it.

Re:What tracking is on your laptop??? (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202711)

Aren't they cute when they are young and so naïve?

Re:What tracking is on your laptop??? (1)

netruner (588721) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202723)

As the creator of the Melissa virus can attest, Office tags its documents with an ID that can be used as a tracer. The OP's "Great American Novel" would, I imagine, be written in Word. []

Still, it would be a real scumbag thing to do. Especially if the correct agreements are vague or nonexistent, not to mention if the OP's work is not related whatsoever to the product in question.

But really, what could possibly happen in the legal world that would surprise any of us?

Re:What tracking is on your laptop??? (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202913)

Office tags its documents with an ID that can be used as a tracer.

Except - the copy of Office that the OP is using is *his own copy*. Ownership of the app is not at question here, only the laptop.

Re:What tracking is on your laptop??? (1)

sycorob (180615) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202831)

Just an example:

You're on a business trip, and you leave the laptop locked up in your trunk. It gets stolen. It miraculously gets recovered by the police, who troll through it for evidence. On the hard drive is the business plan that you're working on, on your own time on "your" laptop, that competes with your company.

Isn't it possible that your company might try to sue, saying that the laptop is their property, and hence the idea is theirs? Just because there's no spyware on there, doesn't mean your private data will never come to light.

slashdot is not your lawyer (4, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202509)

You need to ask a lawyer. His answer will depend, at least in part, on documents you have signed as part of your employment, and on state law.

Personally, I know my company is too confused to ever go after me, my data, and my ideas after I leave, so long as I don't compete directly with them. I don't worry about their supposed ownership of my every thought and dream, despite signing those rights over to them.

Re:slashdot is not your lawyer (5, Funny)

Hork_Monkey (580728) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202609)

You need to ask a lawyer.

Please mod this up. Asking legal questions on an Slashdot forum is like asking 4chan for relationship advice.

Re:slashdot is not your lawyer (5, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202739)

Asking legal questions on an Slashdot forum is like asking 4chan for relationship advice.

I see legal questions in Ask Slashdot as more of a "What should I know before talking to a lawyer?" type of question.

Re:slashdot is not your lawyer (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29203115)

Funny, I see asking 4chan for relationship advice as more of a "What should I know before talking to a lawyer?" type of question.

Re:slashdot is not your lawyer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202777)

In b4 stick it in her pooper and do a barrel roll.

Re:slashdot is not your lawyer (1)

Twyst3d (1359973) | more than 5 years ago | (#29203073)

Considering the responses Ive seen I must disagree. There have been some very sensible answers to his question without the need for asking a lawyer.

Re:slashdot is not your lawyer (4, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202759)

Isn't that going to cost more than the laptop?

Use the cloud (1)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202513)

Sounds like a good argument for cloud computing. My gmail account stays off my company laptop except for the browser cache which can easily be cleared. I think they would have a hard time proving I crafted a genius email using the browser on their laptop.

It's their property? (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202517)

I was always warned about working on personal projects using work equipment. I was told that my company can claim the project as their own since I used their equipment to develop it, which sounds plausible. Where or not it's really true is another matter.

Or was it that I shouldn't be working on personal projects during work time?

Work locally, store globally (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202519)

- Obfuscate code, CYA
- Use remote administration software to work on a remote (home?) computer, and store documents there
- Alternatively, for web apps, remote into a server and do your work remotely.
- Use Google Docs to store your Office-y documents

In the age of teh internets, what's the problem?

silly question (1)

BlindRobin (768267) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202529)

the answer is NO!!!!!! just think about it for a bit. If you want your personal data to be inviolate then you need to segregate it from your work. any physical association no matter how tenuous compromises this segregation.

Run your personal stuff in a VM.. (1)

cowmix (10566) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202561)

When you are 'done' with your job you can either delete the VM or move it to your personal computer.

Clean, easy.

Check your contract (1)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202563)

He may just have access to it anyhow, in which case..take the money and run.

My own hard drive (1)

ruewan (952328) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202569)

I had a company laptop I just put my own hard drive in it when I was using it at home or you could just boot from USB.

Re:My own hard drive (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 5 years ago | (#29203023)

Better: buy a big USB flash drive. Put all of your personal work on that. Laptop is owned by the company, flash drive is owned by you. Keep the flash drive with you, only plug it in when not on company premises.

Don't do it (4, Insightful)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202597)

Do everything in your power to keep your data and theirs separate. In fact I'd even recommend you stop doing their work on your hardware.

If they want to provide you with a company machine then let them.

Why chance it for 1K? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202599)

Seriously, things COULD turn nasty and then this goes to court. He is most likely trying to be nice, but if you are doing side work and want the right to keep that separate, then you should do so. I do recommend that you keep HIS work on a separate disk. He may also insist that you do work only under his licenses, etc (protect himself). If so, consider xen, or vmware and run a virtual system for HIS stuff.

treat it like a car allowance (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202603)

Many companies give employees an allowance to cover the expense of using their own car for business. Tell your boss you want this done the same way.

Re:treat it like a car allowance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202663)

And in many countries where you aren't allowed to smoke at work, while the company pays for the use of your car, you can't smoke in it, because it's your work environment at the time.

You see where this is going?

The other way around (2, Interesting)

big_debacle (413628) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202605)

At my previous company, we went the other personal equipment was allowed. If you needed a tool (e.g. a laptop), it was provided.

We didn't want the liability of damage or theft of someone's personal equipment. Further, we didn't want to deal with things like users bringing in tools that impact the network, we didn't want to have any issues with software licensing (who provides or you bring in non-licensed software), etc. We also had problems with people bringing in things like printers and then having the company pay for ink (that gets expensive) or wireless routers and creating new and unauthorized access points. Beyond even things like people wanting to bring in their own [monitor, video card, sound card, speakers, desktop, etc], we unfortunately faced the issue of dealing with these things (prior to the policy) when on rare occasions someone was fired and IT had to dismantle a PC, etc.

I guess I'm a fan of keeping work and personal apart.

Tell your boss how you feel. (1)

cprocjr (1237004) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202611)

Tell your boss how you feel and if he agrees with you maybe he will figure out some other way to reimburse you, like for example a nice little bonus.

Don't use personal property for work (2, Insightful)

Fortunato_NC (736786) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202613)

It creates an expectation that you will provide your own tools in every circumstance, and you shouldn't be subsidizing your company in any case. Create a line between your personal and business life or you will find that your personal life will erode away. That isn't fair to you or those in your personal life. No matter how much you love your job, it's still just a job at the end of the day. Don't be a sucker.

Get a contract that states it's 100% yours. (2, Informative)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202621)

Nothing to it.

Depending on the tax code where you live, something like this might be required anyway, as it'll be seen as either payment or benefits.

So - go all out. Either have him add the cost of your laptop to your pay check as a one time bonus (bring a copy of the receipt so they can see the price), or have them buy the laptop and give it to you as a gift along with papers showing that it is indeed your laptop and not the company's.

Personally I'd prefer the one time bonus. I'm buying the laptop anyway, I need it, and I'm effectively getting a company sponsored discount with none of the drawbacks.

Why not a second laptop (2)

EricWright (16803) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202629)

Why not take the $1250, buy a second, identical laptop for personal use and set up an external drive that you could use to sync files between the two if necessary (or even a shared drive for professional purposes)?

If you go this route, make sure you never accidentally put personal stuff on the professional laptop.

Reimbursed as bonus? (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202631)

Ask your employer to give it as a bonus. That way, you get your $1250 and he gets to pay for your laptop in a roundabout way. He won't be explicitly paying for the laptop, just giving you some extra cash which you "could" put towards the laptop. However, you might want to ask for a bit more as a bonus will be considered income and be taxable. If you want to keep the machine if/when you leave, getting reimbursed probably wouldn't work. If they pay for it, they'll probably want it back after you leave. Same thing with your data; if they own it, they have the right to snoop around and if you do any personal work on it, they can probably legally say they own at least part of it, if not all of it.

Not a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202645)

I wrote my laptop off as a non-reimbursed work expense. That does not mean my company or IRS now owns it. I still do. I have the receipt to prove it.

It's your laptop. You own it, whether the company reimburses you or not.

If they do want to own it, then they're not reimbursing you, they're buying your laptop.

Use Dropbox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202651)

I use Dropbox to sync my important files between my work laptop and my home desktop. For added security, I also keep my files encrypted, so that neither my employer nor the Dropbox folks will be able to get access if I ever have to give the laptop back. If you're using Ubuntu, I wrote up a howto blog post here [] .

Don't do company work on your hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202653)

Have them buy you a SECOND laptop. Keep your stuff and company stuff separate. You shouldn't be doing company work on your own laptop anyway as even THAT opens up questions of ownership/privacy.

Bonus (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202667)

Ask for the "reimbursement" to be made in the form of a bonus so it's clear who owns the laptop - what you do with your bonus is your business. Yes, you'll have to pay taxes on it (I assume your tax laws count a bonus as income) but that's cheaper than the full price of the laptop and now it's yours, without question.

So long as there's 1) no contract to spell things out clearly and 2) the computer is "theirs", there will always be the risk of someone claiming the data on it is owned by them, not you. You may have an amazing relationship with your current boss but that situation may change (new boss, turn-for-the-worse in your relationship, whatever). If there's a contract in place, fine, but I suspect you're hesitant to ask that a contract be drawn up for just this situation.

Thus, if the company is willing to fork over the money, have them fork it over in a way that does not link it to the computer.

Or, of course, pay for it yourself. You obviously thought it was worth it given that you already bought it. Yes, an extra grand in your pocket is nice but you already decided you were willing to part with the money so if ownership of the data is important then you're not really out anything - it was an expense you were willing to pay.

Easy answers (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202671)

I have and will continue to do company work on my own hardware ...

There's your problem.

Tell your employer they can have it one of two ways: either (a) provide you enough hardware to do your job, or (b) the contents of your laptop of yours, not theirs. Any other approach leads to trouble with sorting out who has copyright on what that will cost them far more than $1250 in legal expenses.

TC... (1)

bagofbeans (567926) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202681)

Make a Truecrypt folder, ideally 4GBish so can be backed up onto a DVD.

Now setup your Thunderbird email profile on the Truecrypt folder ("Thunderbird -profilemanager" allows you setup a new TB profile), and ditto for Firefox profile. Note that Thunderbird and Firefox programs are still installed on machine per normal, it's just the profiles that a separate.

Now your private stuff is private...

Re:TC... (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202807)

Ah yes, implementing a technical solution to a social problem. That's always a winner.

Not necessarily that complicated (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202683)

Just because an employer "reimburses" you doesn't mean he takes title to the item. It might be better to call it compensation - he is paying you for the business use of your equipment. There are tax consequences, but it's better than nothing.

There might also be a parallel in the treatment of using a personally owned vehicle for business use - just because I get $.55/mile when traveling doesn't mean that my employer gets to riffle through my trunk.

Here's what I do (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202687)

I use TrueCrypt [] and create an encrypted volume that only I have the credentials for. They might be able to get on your machine and view files but if you never give them the password to the encrypted file then you are safe. I guess through subpoena or something like that they COULD, in theory, eventually gain access but that's a huge pain in the ass and you could very easily delete the file. It also makes for easy backup to disc or another machine, if needed.

This, of course, should be used in conjunction with what Eldavojohn said and get it in writing that the property is yours. That might not keep them from snooping, however and this solution would keep them from "stumbling" across something you may perfer to keep private.

Subject (2, Insightful)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202699)

I think the real question is why you're asking Slashdot instead of sitting down with your boss and hashing these issues out directly.

I have done this (1)

jockeys (753885) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202703)

in the past, and so far have been pretty lucky. What I wound up doing was encrypting a partition with TrueCrypt and keeping all my personal stuff on it... that way if I ever DID get burned there's not much the company could do in terms of using said data. I realize this isn't 100% fool proof, but I think it's prolly good enough.

Sorry, you're already screwed on that front. (2, Informative)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202727)

But, if I figured out the One Great Internet Business Idea or write the Great American Novel and used the company laptop to do it, it's an avenue they could use to claim they own it.

I don't know what Company you work for, but MOST companies force you to sign a contract at time of employment that basically claims that anything you create while you are employed by the company is legally theirs. Any code you write, any works you produce they could technically sue you for if you suddenly turned around and actually made a decent bit of money off of them. Yes, this includes things you write in the middle of the night on a weekend on your personal computer.

Does this mean they're going to try and claim your profits at the Church Arts and Crafts fair or try and claim they own the game you sell for $2 on your website? No. But they do this for several reasons. One is to protect their own asses... while you're busy coding at Adobe for their Great New Photoshop, you can't go home and use the ideas, even those YOU came up with at work, to create "Joe's Photomall" and suddenly turn around and start undercutting photoshop. Another reason is pure greed... if you suddenly have this great idea and write a 5kb Operating System that runs everything, it's THEIR great idea if you actually coded it while you were employed under them and _they_ get the rights to it, not you.

Yes, there have been cases where this has come up, and it is usually up to the (ex)employee to prove that they created the code or whatever either before or after they were under employment.

Just an FYI... I would check up on your contracts if you think this may be a problem.

Re:Sorry, you're already screwed on that front. (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202937)

MOST companies force you to sign a contract at time of employment that basically claims that anything you create while you are employed by the company is legally theirs.

These aren't always enforceable, and I certainly never signed one.

One is to protect their own asses... while you're busy coding at Adobe for their Great New Photoshop, you can't go home and use the ideas, even those YOU came up with at work, to create "Joe's Photomall" and suddenly turn around and start undercutting photoshop.

Then they should put a noncompete clause in -- which still isn't always enforceable.

In any case, this is why I read the more important contracts (like employment), and strike the stuff I don't agree with.

Re:Sorry, you're already screwed on that front. (1)

Alexpkeaton1010 (1101915) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202973)

I wouldn't say most companies do that. My company's policy states that anything I create that is work related is their property, which is reasonable. However, if I do something that is not related to work at all, such as create a new invention not related to my companies business, or write a novel, then it is my property.

More an issue of ownership. (1)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202729)

Your company owner sounds like a good person, offering to reimburse your purchase. It sounds like he surprised you and now you're trying to decide whether you want to retain ownership of the laptop or sign it over to the company.

For the company owner, it would be a no brainer because he owns the company that would own the equipment. For you, there are more questions about relinquishing ownership.

1) Will you have to return the laptop if you leave the company?
2) Will the company's IT staff have to maintain the laptop?
3) How much personal usage will you get away with before you ruffle feathers?
4) Why would you provide your own copy of MS Office for a company machine?

Since the company owner made the offer to you personally, I think you could discuss this informally with him and emphasize that when you purchased the equipment you were expecting to use it primarily for personal business.

As to the issue of your personal work being claimed by the company, that's sort of a nightmare scenario that I can't imagine happening in the real world unless you work for total assholes. If you're truly worried about your company sending lawyers after you, you shouldn't even consider signing over your equipment to the company.

Virtualization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202741)

I'm in the same situation.
I'm using a Virtual Machine. The job stuff in a isolated guest, and my stuff in the host OS.
So, the IT guys can configure group policies, monitoring, copy anything... but don't touch my host.

Keep them separate (1)

OrangeMonkey11 (1553753) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202769)

I do not know what policy most company setup for situation such as these but with mine; when the company paid for your equipment it is company property irregardless if you take it home and keep it there.

the one reason my company did this was people were stealing, they purchase equipment then wrote it off say it was for work then quit.

get a second laptop (1)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202785)

Business and pleasure don't mix. Have your boss buy you a laptop which you only use for work-related purposes.

Um, dude.. (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202787)

Why are you using your personal property to do work for your job in the first place? Your post sounds like you've worn out your own laptop working for your boss and now you have to replace it? Not smart. He should replace it, yes -- but then he should also provide another one, if necessary, for company business, and never the twain shall meet. Now go forth, and transgress no more, grasshopper!

Simple solution (1)

snarfies (115214) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202789)

Encrypt everything.

Re:Simple solution (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202879)

Get sued for the key.

inb4 NewYorkCountryLawyer (1)

Jonas Buyl (1425319) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202803)

There should be clauses in your contract that handle intellectual property. If there's something like: "projects developed in a company setting are owned by the company" you should be careful because a judge might view using the company laptop as being in a company setting.

I'd say.....go for it. (1)

ogdenk (712300) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202813)

I'd say let them reimburse you for the laptop, then take the $1250 and grab another one (or a really nice netbook and pocket the change) for personal use. If you leave the company and they ask for the laptop, oh well. If they don't, you have an extra laptop. If you insist on having personal data on a machine used for work, then use truecrypt for your personal files.

A netbook wouldn't add much weight to your bag either.

That's my opinion. I'm stuck using my personal laptop as my employer won't cover one but they know damn well it's mine (along with any of my personal pet projects) and any attempt to steal my personal work through litigation may result in health complications.

Loan (2, Interesting)

ForexCoder (1208982) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202825)

Set it up as a loan from the company to purchase the laptop, payable over x months. If you leave before x months, you owe the remainder, if you stay the full x months, you don't have to repay it. That way the laptop is yours, not the companies.

Who will own your employer in future? (1)

freddled (544384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202829)

Don't do it. Even if you make an arrangement with your company, put it in writing, etc, you have no way of knowing who might buy your company, what their policies might be and how aggressive they might be about cashing in on IP which they claim to own through lawyer-spending-power. I write - fiction not code - and I never, ever use company hardware or time to do it. It's just not worth it. I don't even write notes on company notepaper. It isn't just paranoia, its also fair play to separate the two. When I couldn't afford my own laptop, I bought an Axim and used that instead.

2 laptops? (1)

AxemRed (755470) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202845)

Why not take the money and use it to buy a new laptop exclusively for work? Is it critical to have a single laptop that you use for work and personal use?

If it's more convenient to use your work laptop for personal use, but only on occasion, you can always copy your files to your personal computer when you're able and then use a program like Eraser to clean up your work drive.

Nonsense. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202847)

recently replaced my old laptop. The owner of my company heard about this and offered to reimburse me for it, since he knows I have and will continue to do company work on my own hardware. I'd like the extra $1,250, but I think if I accept his offer that legally he has the right to any data on it (personal emails, files, blog posts, etc.)

If you total or wear out your personal car because of your work, and your employer offers to pay for the replacement, he doesn't magically get title to it. He *replaced* YOUR hardware which wore out due to company use.

Same as if the company replaces a customer's cell phone that gets broken due to, for example, it getting run over by the company's delivery truck. They don't suddenly p0wn the customer's cell.

When they reimburse you for on-the-road meals, do they suddenly have a right, like Shylock in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", to claim their pound of flesh? Nope. When they pay for your new pants because you ruined your old ones on a service call, do they suddenly have the right to say "only wear them while you're on the job?" Didn't think so. When they give you gas and mileage money, do they get a lease-hold or any further rights to your car? Nah.

When the laptop gets stolen, whose insurance is going to cover it, or who is going to eat the loss? You. Take the money, and make it clear that the laptop is YOUR responsibility, and your liabity. Worse comes to worse, get it in writing, get it in writing, and get it in writing.

Simply put... (1)

nervepack (632230) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202901)

Your computer, your data. Their computer, their data.

used my own drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202909)

At my last company I bought my own HD for the laptop mainly because the lead time for the laptop with a 7200RPM drive was too long. The laptop arrived about a week or two after I started, (I was in the IT/OPS dept btw). I took the laptop home and the first thing I did before even turning it on was to "dd" the old drive to the new drive. I put the old drive away in a safe place and used the new drive for my time there. When I left the company I just yanked my disk, and put the original back in and gave it back to them. Sure the licenses of software was theirs for the most part(it was dual boot XP and UBuntu) but I've never used(nor never intended) to use the commercial software, it's really only been a backup disk since. I put it in a USB enclosure and have used it on a few occasions to get data off of it.

Company before that I just copied all my data off before I left and left the system booted into a live linux distro writing /dev/urandom to the disk in a loop.

(posted as AC as I don't have a /. account and I post maybe once every two years)

never thought about it like that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202927)

Well shit, I'm never gonna leave my girlfriend in the company car again!

buy your own hard disk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202957)

I'm not an expert on the subject, but I think that your worries are largely unfounded. I think that your data and work belong to you by default, unless you have signed some paper that tells otherwise. The laptop is a tool, not an IP black hole.

Imagine other similar situtations:

  • You borrow a camera from your friend to shoot some photos. Does this gives him rights to the photos you shot? No.
  • Your company gives you a pistol. Are they liable for you shooting pistol? No.
  • Your company gives you a free tshirt. Is your boss entitled to sleep with the girls you hit while wearing it? No.

In short, they are providing you with a tool. Unless otherwise signed, they are not entitled to what is produced with it or liable for its misuse. Even if you sign such a paper, I think that they will have a hard time to claim every data file on the laptop. This would give you grounds to counter-claim overtime wages for the time needed to produce the data ;-).

If in doubt, accept the offer and replace the hard disk of the laptop. When you leave the company, shall they ask you for the laptop back just give it back with its original (empty) hard disk. Any work files they want from you should be given to them seperately.

Obvious Answer (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202965)

Take the money.
Buy a second laptop.

One for you, one for them, and if it all turns out well in the end, you get both (though they'll be old and shitty by then probably).

a matter of accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29202969)

There may be a side route to this.

If the laptop is a business expense, you can deduct it from your taxes.

I THINK this means that you can take this as a deduction and get the FULL value back, either as a refund, or reduction in taxes owed.

Talk to you tax professional.

How I solved the issue... (2, Interesting)

tirk (655692) | more than 5 years ago | (#29202999)

I work from home for a company that isn't in my state, but I also do independent work and have my own small company. I don't want a seperate machine for each place, so for my main employer, I have a monthly stipend added to my pay for the use of personal computers, printers, office supplies, etc. This way I still own the equipment, but I also get some money for it's wear and tear, etc. Of course this means I pay for repairs and supplies out of pocket when they are needed, but over time it evens out.

Digital Separation of Work and Life (1)

FrozenGeek (1219968) | more than 5 years ago | (#29203007)

First off: if you're really concerned, and you do intend to do develop your own stuff, talk to a lawyer - laws vary significantly between jurisdictions. That said, I always do my own development work on my hardware using my software on my own time. I do not use company time, hardware, or software, for anything I consider to be "mine". I won't even talk to co-workers about it (even outside company time). I do all this to maintain a strict separation. If accepting the money means they own the laptop (even in part), don't take the money. Or buy a cheap computer to use for your own work. I'd recommend doing this even if a lawyer says you're okay. Laws change. You could move. Companies can use the threat of long, expensive lawsuits to intimidate. Leaving as few legal footholds for the enemy is a good idea.

Keep your laptop and buy another with the money (1)

havock (42287) | more than 5 years ago | (#29203029)

It is that simple. Physical seperation is the way to go and since you were willing to buy a machine with your own money, you now get two machines for the price of one. No legal mess, no conversation required, this is the simplist solution.

Tagtypo (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29203047)

a laywer will help him, but the problem will be to find somone with this profession.

Wouldn't do it (1)

digitalgimpus (468277) | more than 5 years ago | (#29203083)

I wouldn't do it. Do anything the boss is interested in (stealth startup perhaps?)... and they will try to claim rights on the data and make a huge mess. Boss suspicious your moonlighting, doing anything that violates company policy (selling trade secrets).... again will try to claim rights. Will end up in court in front of a judge who couldn't turn on a computer himself and it will be corporate lawyers vs. whatever you can afford. Not to mention if the company goes under... will creditors assessing what hardware assets the company has consider this hardware theirs or yours? Just seems like a disaster waiting to happen. At the very least there's a potential for legal bills. Totally not worth it.

Keep it separate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29203109)

What's mine is mine. What's theirs is theirs. Keep it separate.

NO! (4, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#29203113)

Do -not- use personal equipment for company use.

Okay, I admit I do it. I have a $20 keyboard and $15 mouse that I brought in. But if something happened and I never saw them again, 'oh well'. They don't store any data, and they have no value other than their replacement value.

A laptop? Are you insane!?

Take the $1250, the company now owns the laptop. Do your personal stuff on a computer you actually own.


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