21 Feb Take a Peek inside the Office of a Top Executive
If you have always wanted to take a peek inside the office of a top executive, then Delta flight 676 to Tampa might be your ticket. Or United flight 415 to San Francisco. Or American flight 317 to Chicago. Here is my point: if you walked into a major office building on Wall Street, somehow managed to get onto the executive floor, and then sat down next to someone at their desk as they are working, you would be thrown out immediately. You might even be arrested for illegally trespassing. But if you board a plane and sit next to an executive working on his or her laptop, you might just find out what goes on inside those skyscrapers downtown. Almost any domestic flight will do. And if you spring for First Class, things might get even more interesting!
That’s because most passengers seem to be oblivious to the fact that you can easily see what they are doing on their laptops. How many times have you seen people working on presentation slides that are marked “confidential”? Before you can start wondering where this person might be working, he starts typing away at an email and his email signature handily provides this information. Based on my own count on the last ten flights or so, maybe 5% of business people working on laptops use some sort of a privacy screen. Why is that? Has their employer not stressed this as a requirement? Are they just lazy? Cost can’t be a factor since you can buy these thin plastic screens for about $20 or less online and they easily slip inside a work bag.
We all should admit that we have looked at what someone else might be working on in the seat next to us. If someone watched hard core porn on their laptop next to you, you would notice and you would probably be uncomfortable. Well, I get uncomfortable when I see that someone in a position of responsibility displays utter disregard for the sensitive information that they have access to as part of their job.
For example, on a recent flight from Washington D.C. to Tampa, Florida, I sat next to a private military contractor. He was reviewing materials for a meeting he was going to have with CENTCOM the next day. That is CENTCOM as in United States Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base. If you type “CENTCOM” into Google, the first result reads “Responsible for U.S. security interests in 20 nations, stretching through the Arabian Gulf region into Central Asia.” That experience caused me to make a mental note to write about this subject. The same applies for business people on trains. Amtrak between Boston, New York and Washington can be unexpectedly interesting if you sit next to or behind someone working on their laptop without a privacy screen.
Michael Marquardt serves as a global business advisor to corporations in Asia, Europe, and the United States. He works closely with the CEO and members of the senior leadership team on issues strategic to the enterprise and advises Audit Committees and Boards of Directors on effective risk management measures, corporate governance, and emerging technology issues.