Attention, all who Slack, Gchat, or make use of another enterprise IM software: Your convos are not private.
Some staffers at The New York Times were reminded of this harsh reality on Wednesday, after transcripts of their conversations on Slack, an instant messaging system for businesses, were leaked to the public.
Their Slack chatter centered on the controversial social media posts of the op-ed writer Bari Weiss, and the Times' decision to hire, and then fire, another writer, Quinn Norton, after her old racist and homophobic tweets resurfaced.
The Times employees taking part in the conversation were fairly self-aware that it might not be the best venue to air these complaints. "I'm always wary of being seen as some sort of internal agitator," one person chatted. But the conversation didn't stop when another staffer warned the group that their chat had been leaked. Granted most of our office bitching wouldn't make front-page news, but this incident is a good reminder that you should be careful what you say at work — even if you think it's a private online chat.
In terms of Slack, public conversations can be discovered by people who aren't active in that thread simply by performing a search. "Laura," an ad sales worker at a tech company learned that in 2016 when she innocuously searched for her name in the system and stumbled upon a channel "pretty much dedicated to bashing everybody in sales," replete with "borderline racist stuff" and "people getting called 'dumb sluts' left and right."
Think private channels and DMs are in the clear? Wrong again. Private channels "cease being private the second a boss gets wind of the channel and insists someone invite them in," Mashable explains. And depending on your company's plan, private channels and direct messages can be exported or combed through by third-party platforms.
In 2016, Julia Blystone, a spokesperson for Slack, told NPR that "it is important to remember that it is still business software, and anything you communicate on a workplace device using a workplace network may ultimately belong to your employer."
In other words, if you want to blow off some steam, take a moment to decide whether you should stopper it completely, or at least keep in mind how far your blast will go. At some point, its reach may extend beyond your control.