Accountability and Signatures

One of my favorite tricks lately to make people understand how serious I am about things is to get them to sign a form.

You want to run your server without backups? I don’t recommend it at all, but I’ll do whatever you say. Just sign this form acknowledging that you know the risks, you know you could lose all your data at any time for any reason (including things I might do), and regardless of cause you don’t hold me accountable for anything.

You want to let your employee take a machine out of the building without following our procedures for wiping the drives? We have a policy against that and it’s a terrible idea, but no big deal. Here’s the form to sign saying that you take complete responsibility for all the data, sensitive or otherwise, on that machine. Why do you have to sign this? Well, this way when the data on that machine leaks out and causes identity theft, etc. I have a “get out of jail free” card. Yes, jail.

The thing is, nobody ever wants to sign these forms and put their name, in writing, on a really bad idea.

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  • Now if we can only get politicians to realize this….

  • Brilliant.

    But does this tactic really work to let them know the severity of the situation? I can imagine some folks thinking you’re just a jerk with control issues or something. Any good reactions/stories to share?

  • I have never looked too much like a jerk when I do this, because by the time I have to do something this rash it’s already too late. I can usually talk people out of their bad decisions, addressing whatever concerns they might have. Sometimes bad ideas are fueled by financial reasons or misunderstandings, and we can work together to figure that out.

    In the end, even if I do look like a jerk that’s a small tradeoff for having no legal liability for some of these bad decisions. I don’t want to be the guy they sue when they refused to let me back their stuff up and it all got lost in a drive failure. It’s a pretty powerful signal being sent when they see I’m already preparing for problems later.

    A situation I’ve never been in, though, is them refusing to sign, but also moving forward with their bad idea. Hopefully I won’t ever see that. :-)

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