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Previously, on the internet…

This column appears in the February 06 issue of PC Advisor, which hits the shops on December 15

Many people have been fired for leaking confidential information to people they shouldn't. Some do it for ethical reasons, others for cold hard cash; but the treatment of Andrew Krucoff by Condé Nast – US publishers of Vanity Fair and Vogue, among other titles – brings a whole new meaning to the sledgehammer/nut cliché.

Krucoff's crime? Selling commercially sensitive information to rival publishing companies? Revealing damaging details of the company's business practices to a journalist? No and no – certainly not. Forwarding an email to gossip blog Gawker about Condé Nast's internet access being down? You betcha.

On 20 October, Krucoff, who was working freelance for Condé Nast, forwarded an email to his friend Jesse Oxfeld, who unfortunately is also a Gawker editor, to explain why he had disappeared from instant messenger and private email.

Unbeknownst to Krucoff, Oxfeld posted the email, without source, on Gawker, alongside a typically sarcastic comment: "Crisis at 4 Times Square! [This was followed by a copy of the email from Krucoff explaining internet outage.] Whatever will Nasties [Gawker's affectionate name for Condé Nast employees] do with themselves all day? Because God knows putting out one magazine a month can't possibly keep busy, say, the 106 people listed on the Vanity Fair masthead. That's editorial and art people listed in the November 2005 issue, not including all the various ‘contributing' editors, photographers and so on, who aren't necessarily in the building."

An internal investigation at Condé Nast ensued and it didn't take them long to put two and two together and come up with Krucoff, who was escorted from the premises. Following Krucoff's dismissal, Gawker posted a sheepish apology.

"We write lots of mean things about lots of people we'd love to see get some comeuppance. We run lots of leaked memos and internal communications, some of them rather embarrassing to the company from which they were leaked. What's truly remarkable is that someone was just moments ago fired – and it's someone we very much like – over an item that wasn't mean, that didn't attempt to deliver any comeuppance, and was in no way embarrassing to the company from which it was leaked," a post on 24 October started.

"We're shocked. We're disappointed. We're a little mad at our ourselves (and not for all the usual reasons)… In any case, if anyone needs a good numbers guy – who's also a pretty amazing writer, to be honest – let us know. We'll put you in touch."

The post was followed by a link to Krucoff's blog.

The moral of the story? Be careful what you send from your work email account, no matter how innocuous it appears to you.

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