A few years ago I was gainfully employed by a local government service in a tech support capacity, providing telephone and on-the-spot assistance to a variety of computing and mobile issues.
You would not believe the things I saw.
Given that some of these employees were among the most intelligent people in the country, the way in which they misused their devices was astonishing, from general irresponsible behaviour concerning the devices (drops, scratches, broken screens, etc.) to leaving material saved or even open on the desktop that you certainly wouldn’t show to your grandmother.
As for the confidential information that sat open an ALT+TAB away…
You see, if you have a problem with your laptop or phone, before you take it back to the shop, consult an Apple “Genius” or package the thing up and send it back with an RMA code, there are a few things that you should consider…
Do You Know the Technician?
First things first – are you sending your phone or laptop to someone that you know? More specifically, is this someone that you have known for a while and do you trust them?
It is easy to gain trust when working as a support technician – all you need to do is display expertise and show that you understand the issue and how to resolve it and the customer will trust you to get their device working again.
When trust can be gained this easily, it is important that you be sure that the device and data that you’re handing over will be treated with respect, sensitivity and confidentially.
Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Back in 2010 an American woman received remote tech support from a Dell employee, who removed extremely personal images from her laptop for his own use. It didn’t end well.
Basically, anyone with some knowledge of computers can get a job working in tech support. They could be right out of prison or right out of college – either way, just because they know what they’re talking about doesn’t mean you should trust them. Instead, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable firm, and wherever possible, speak to them face to face rather than remotely.
Tidy Things Up!
While it is important that you shouldn’t make any changes to the software and hardware configuration on your laptop or phone when sending it to a tech support agent – the first thing they would do is attempt to recreate your issue – you should make sure that there are no easily accessible personal files.
This might mean deleting files, perhaps using password protect tools and generally keeping data that doesn’t need to be seen away from the eyes of your tech support guy. You might save the data to a writable DVD, USB drive or some other external storage medium.
What you certainly shouldn’t do is leave important files – confidential information, photos, and commercially sensitive data – on the desktop or anywhere else that tech support will need to access.
Don’t Store Adult Photographs On Your Laptop, Phone or Tablet!
Having a personal camera that takes great quality photos that don’t require developing at the local chemists has been a great addition to smartphone technology. But now that you can share your photos with a special someone, that doesn’t mean that you should – and it certainly isn’t a reason to leave those photos “lying around” on your iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone.
Whether these images have been snapped by you or saved from the web, they really don’t need to be present when the device is given an RMA and sent back to the manufacturer or retailer. Similarly, sensitive personal data should be removed from your phone before shipping – a full factory reset is probably the best way of dealing with this.
(On a related note, observe that cloud storage doesn’t usually permit the uploading of adult material, so any images that you have snapped or downloaded to a cloud-synced directory might cause you to lose access to that storage – not something you want to happen when you’ve already lost access to a laptop or smartphone usually used to access that same cloud drive).
Remove Unsuitable/Unapproved Software
Similarly, games and unlicensed applications shouldn’t be installed on a work laptop, just as software with a free home license should be removed prior to sending the device to tech support. It might just be the case, of course, that this unsuitable or unapproved software is the cause of whatever problems you’re facing.
If this is the case then it’s down to you to take the rap – do you remove it and claim ignorance (although registry clues might give the game away) or do you leave it installed and hope for the best?
If you have got your head screwed on properly and have been brought up with a good dose of common sense, none of the above should come as any surprise to you.
Unfortunately, there are many people for whom technology represents the unknown, and when they are asked to deal with it they fail to fully understand the consequences of their actions. Worse still, this can also happen to people who should know better, such as other tech support agents!
Ultimately, remember that if you’re going to store personal information on your smartphone or laptop, any technician employed to deal with problems with the device will be likely to view it, either by accident or as part of their diagnosis and repair. Remember also that you need to make the tech support guy’s job as easy as possible so that your hardware will come back quickly…
Image Credit: Grumpy Customer Service via Shutterstock |Man with Headset via Shutterstock | Call center agent with headset via Shutterstock | Voyeurism or pornography via Shutterstock | Stack of CD-ROMS via Shutterstock