Should your company know who you’re dating *outside* work?

Investment giant BlackRock wants to know who its workers are shagging.

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Should your employer know who you're dating *outside* work?

The Coronavirus pandemic has pretty much killed off office romances, and the chances of a snog in the stationery cupboard, but now at least one firm might be pooping over romance outside of the workplace as well.

BBC News reports that BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset management firm, has told all of its 16,000 staff that they must agree to a new “relationships at work” policy.

It’s understandable that the policy has caught the attention of the press when the policy states that employees must disclose:

“all personal relationships with other BlackRock employees or contingent workers, as well as personal relationships with employees of a service provider, vendor or other third party (including a client), if the non-BlackRock employee is within a group that interacts with BlackRock.”

So, to be clear – if you work for BlackRock and you are dating someone who doesn’t work for a client of BlackRock’s, or a partner of BlackRock’s, or a supplier of BlackRock’s, then you don’t have to tell your boss that you’re getting down n’ dirty with them.

But if there is any possibility of a conflict of interest, or potential of the perception of a conflict of interest, they’re asking you to be open about it.

Now I don’t know at exactly what stage in the courting process it becomes necessary to inform your boss.

Is it when you first connect on Tinder? The first furtive kiss? Mid-way through intercourse? The first time you meet the other person’s parents? (Hopefully those last two aren’t simultaneous)

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But it does seem to me rather counter to the spirit of romance to quiz someone as to whether their company has any dealings with your BlackRock. What a passion killer!

And yes, I can see how you don’t want conflicts of interest. An employee of BlackRock, for instance, may give unfair preference to a supplier that their boyfriend is working at, or be less scrupulous in negotiating. And you also don’t want horrendous situations developing where people abuse their positions of authority for their own personal gain.

But more than this, I wondered what this meant in the current global pandemic.

Many of us are working from home, and some may have even rushed much faster than normal into installing their romantic partner into their house to get around lockdown guidelines. Will we see more companies asking questions about who you might be sharing a home with, and who has potential unauthorised access to an office laptop and sensitive documents that have been printed out?

In short, if HR departments think it’s acceptable to have strict guidelines in place regarding declaration of outside relationships due to conflicts of interest, might we also see similar rules being put in place to reduce the risk of security breaches?

From the purely security point of view *maybe* it makes some sense. But I don’t like the idea of a company vetting external relationships to see if they posed a cybersecurity threat.

And I could imagine many workers simply choosing to keep their relationships private, and not appreciating that companies are increasingly snooping on people’s lives outside the office.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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