This past Sunday evening, a colleague and I were sitting in our hotel lounge working on our computers, when we suddenly overheard two middle-aged individuals a few tables away discussing sensitive business issues about a company. This was a bit surprising, and was quite unprofessional. In this era of mobile phones, video chatting, and social media, we are becoming too comfortable with over-sharing personal and business information in public. I think it is time we revisit some basic points regarding confidentiality and business travel.
1. Evaluate the urgency–When there is no immediate need to discuss business issues out in the open, it is always best not to do so. If you find your colleagues engaging in this type of discourse, steer the conversation into a neutral topic and remind your travel companions to be more cognizant of their surroundings. On those occasions when it is imperative to talk, be sure to keep the volume of your voice on the lower side.
2. No names–Whether you are at the airport, train station, or hotel, be careful not to disclose the name of your company if you must discuss business in public areas. I also advise not wearing clothing or using computer bags with company logos on them. This is not only important to ensure confidentiality when engaging in discussions, but it is also advised by most security departments as a safety measure. Personnel of well-recognized companies can be targets, especially when traveling in high-risk locations.
3. Use privacy screens–I can’t tell you how many times I have been at an airport lounge or on an airplane where those around me were working on their computer with unprotected screens. You never know when a competitor is sitting right next to you! It is very important to use a privacy filter on your computer screen to secure your information. Roving eyes are everywhere.
4. Passwords are essential–If you are typing on your computer and need to step away for a moment at an airport lounge or hotel, make sure your screen saver is programmed to kick in quickly (every 5 minutes) and requires a password to reenter. Even more importantly, if you are traveling alone, never leave your computer unattended. Yes, it is annoying, but it is best to take your computer along when getting a drink or visiting the bathroom.
As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels.