Careless talk warning – you never know who’s listening when you're out and about

working on a train
By Ellen Arnison

4 August 2016

A relaxed train journey is the perfect opportunity to get some work done or catch up with colleagues.

As you sip your takeaway coffee and the countryside whizzes by outside the carriage, there are no distractions and the time can be so productive.

With wifi in so many more places and everyone using laptops, mobiles and tablets, it really is possible to work anywhere.

However, it doesn’t matter how comfortable and quiet your carriage – or airport lounge, for that matter – it’s still a public place and you must put your professional responsibility above your desire to defeat your to-do list.

As you make that work phone call, you may well survey your fellow passengers and dismiss them as having no interest or knowledge in what you’re discussing. The person opposite can’t possibly be interested in the files you’re working on, besides, they seem engrossed in their newspaper. Surely no one would peep at what’s on your laptop while you nip to the loo…

Protecting the client is your duty

That’s where you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter how good your judgement and how carefully you’ve considered the matter, you’ve breached your client’s confidentiality.

It’s true you can get lots of work done on public transport, but you must ensure that you take whatever steps are necessary to avoid disclosing client information – the consequences could be serious for you, your firm and the client.

Robert Mudge, Head of Investigations at ICAS, said: “The importance of confidentiality is reflected in its status as one of the five fundamental principles in the ICAS Code of Ethics. Unfortunately, we do receive complaints at ICAS alleging that CAs have failed to follow the tight constraints on disclosing client information. If a breach of confidentiality is upheld, there can be serious disciplinary consequences for the CA concerned”.

You’ve been entrusted with company information, follow these tips to keep it safe:

  • Don’t discuss work in a public place – either on the phone or face to face.
  • Don’t leave files or documents where others can see them. You’d be surprised by how many people can read upside down!
  • Don’t assume that an unlikely looking fellow passenger won’t know what or who you are referring to.
  • Don’t think that by not saying the client’s name you have protected them, eavesdroppers could easily work out (or google) who you are discussing.
  • Don’t leave confidential material unattended, even for a moment.
  • Don’t be lulled into thinking it’s OK because your colleagues are happy to talk carelessly – the responsibility is yours.


  • CA Student blog

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