I was sitting at work checking my e-mail when two gentlemen from my company’s Information Technology Support Team (ITST) approached my cubicle.
“Are you Mr. Huereca?” One of them asked.
I replied rather hesitantly, “Yes.”
“Ok Mr. Huereca, we’re going to need to take your computer.”
I prodded for justification, “Why are you taking my computer?”
“You were downloading MP3s.”
“Downloading MP3s?” I asked seeking further information.
“Yep. So we need to scan it to make sure everything’s okay.”
I immediately began thinking of the potential ramifications of my computer being confiscated. I was especially worried about the “accusation” of downloading music files onto my work computer.
I asked if a chain of command had been followed, “Has my immediate supervisor been notified of this confiscation?”
“No. We haven’t informed your supervisor.”
“Okay.” I said, not really thinking of the consequences of just letting them take the computer.
One of the two began unhooking all of my cables to my computer and off my computer went. It was confiscated on the 28th of November, and I have yet to see my glimmering machine again. However, a simple act of computer confiscation has fueled quite a firestorm. I will go over some of the main issues I have had to deal with regarding my computer being confiscated.
You Were Downloading MP3s
I haven’t downloaded MP3s since Napster went under and the RIAA started suing people for downloading pirated music. I buy my music legally on iTunes. Conveniently, the iTunes site is blocked at work, so I couldn’t even begin to think about downloading it. Furthermore, I don’t have any privileges whatsoever to install software that is capable of downloading MP3s (such as peer-to-peer software).
There are several potential ways I could have downloaded an MP3 without my knowledge. I was taking a foreign language course the day before, but to my knowledge the foreign language course uses Shockwave. I’m not sure if Shockwave can download MP3s to a user’s hard drive. I also might have accidentally downloaded an MP3 by going to a web development website. The site I usually go to had a streaming podcast on the main page that started once I browsed to the site. The streaming podcast used Flash, however, so I doubt any file was downloaded that way.
Other than that, I am hard pressed to believe that I actually browsed to a site and deliberately downloaded an MP3 to my hard drive. I am not that stupid. To say that I knowingly downloaded MP3s onto my work computer is beyond insulting my intelligence.
The Confiscated Computer Was Not Mine
I am not accusing anybody else that used the computer of downloading music files to the computer. It was made pretty obvious by the ITST that it was my username that downloaded the files.
However, the computer was not mine. It was somebody else’s computer before I started using it. That means that somebody else had loads of hard work stored on the computer. The fact that the computer was confiscated meant that the primary user of the computer would not be able to access his or her files until the computer was returned.
The user of the computer actually came to me and asked where the computer was. When I explained the situation, the user went ballistic. The user wasn’t mad at me, however, but mad that the ITST took “their” computer without even consulting the actual owner of the hardware.
The Computer Was Formatted
To make matters worse, the ITST determined that the computer needed to be formatted due to the MP3s turning up in a scan. As a result, the original user’s unbacked-up data was now lost forever.
So some MP3s determined the fate for an entire hard drive? Why not just delete the MP3 files?
The Chain of Command Wasn’t Consulted
Furthermore, no chain of command was consulted when the computer was formatted — the original user wasn’t consulted, I wasn’t consulted, nor was my immediate supervisor consulted.
So essentially, the computer was confiscated and formatted without the chain of command being followed.
As of this post, my confiscated computer has still not been returned, but that is not stopping the firestorm from erupting. My immediate supervisor is absolutely angry because no chain of command was followed. The original user of the hardware is enraged because of all the lost files. I’m obviously upset.
So what will happen from here? In the short-term, I just hope I can get my computer back in one piece. I’ve been rather bored at work this past week to say the least.
The ITST confiscated the computer (for alleged downloading of MP3s) without going through the chain. The computer was scanned and formatted without consulting the chain. Years of data was lost. An hourly employee was without a computer (and something to do) for at least a week. Also, ITST personnel were kept from performing other duties due to being tied up with issues regarding the confiscated computer.
I was asked the day after my computer was taken if I had experienced this kind of hell at other companies I had worked for. I replied, “Not by a long shot.”