Many people often book flights, search for vacations, and check their email from work. Depending on who you work for and your company policies, there is a good chance that much of the information you’d like to keep private is not. Every employee should be aware that they may already have a very intimate relationship with their IT staff and not even know it. Some information should stay private and there are a few tips and tools that make this possible – even from the office.

  • Searching for flights – When ever you initiate a search, whether it be via Google, FareCast, or any other online trip service you are giving away information about where you want to go, when, and for how much. In order to keep your searches private make sure to use one of the free many proxy sites out there. Those of the most paranoid can keep most everything they surf from work secret with Tor.

  • Email – This is one area of online privacy where most of us slack. We send emails out about our evil Aunt Mary, the new job we’re about to take, and even sexy time. Emails are completely readable not only by your IT department staff, but anyone on the Internet who can get a hold of them. Think of email as a postcard. Those of you using Gmail can download Firefox and install the Gmail Encryption plugin. This will allow your to encrypt all of your Gmail and Google Talk chats. Other email services may not be as easy to encrypt, so your best bet is to just wait until you get home to respond. (Keep in mind that incoming mails are also readable however. If you’re really paranoid, don’t even read them).
  • Chats – Instant messages are as easy to read by IT (and naughty co-workers) as email. Many sure you keep your messages vague and G-rated while at the office. For increased privacy you can encrypt your emails by using Meebo, chatting via Skype, or by using the Gmail encrypt method described above.
  • Running applications – Those times you want to text your sister in Italy with Skype but can’t because it’s blocked by your IT staff, simply do it off your home computer. Sign up for an account at LogMeIn and you’ll be able to run programs, read documents, and control your PC from a Web browser. LogMeIn also encrypts all of the transmissions so no one in IT can see what you’re up to. The best part, it’s free.
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This list could be longer – there are a variety of things that you might want to keep private. Myspace accounts (don’t use your real name), drunken Flickr photos, and newspaper articles make your life accessible to the entire world. Make sure that you use all of the privacy features included with each service, and if they don’t exist, request it.

Other questions or comments, feel free to ask in the comments.