Don’t Give Your Work Files Names Like “Asshat”

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Don’t even think about it.

Earlier this week, a senior official in the Treasury Department was charged with giving an unnamed journalist (a reporter at BuzzFeed, it is widely believed) confidential information about people being investigated in the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Natalie Edwards, a senior adviser in the department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, was arrested after FBI agents searched a phone and flash drive belonging to Edwards, the Washington Post reported. On the latter, they found several files whose names caught their attention.

“The majority of the files were saved to a folder on the flash drive entitled ‘Debacle—Operation-CF,’ and sub-folders bearing names such as ‘DebacleEmailsAsshat’,” the criminal complaint against Edwards stated, according to the Post.

Lest this be mistaken for official Treasury business, the complaint noted: “Edwards is not known to be involved in any official FinCEN project or task bearing these file titles or code names.”

The prosecution could use the crude names on Edwards’s files to argue that she planned to use the files for her own illegal purposes. An asshat, in case you’re not familiar, is a term frequently deployed against a foolish person. And it’s possible, though we’re merely speculating here, that “CF” refers to a common phrase for a mismanaged situation.

Rare is the white-collar worker who has not been warned at least once never to write an email at work that he or she wouldn’t want read aloud in court. The charges against Edwards are a reminder to office workers everywhere that the same care applies to just about everything that leaves a record—file names included. Metadata, the location of cell phone calls, and emails have all been admitted as evidence in court. Email evidence, in particular, has led to some deeply embarrassing (and legally ruinous) situations for their authors.

Better to take a less colorful but legally safer approach to your file and folder naming.

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