Social Media Policy – Part 6 – Privacy

Most, if not all, social media websites provide options for what information a user makes available to the public.  Facebook, for example, offers options for who can view status updates, removing a user’s name from search results, and limiting who can view pictures.  According to a recent article published in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology, most young adult users of social media websites are concerned about privacy and have taken steps to protect their privacy on social media websites.[1] (Special thanks to Gwynne Kostin for point Vandi article out to me.  Gwynne thoughts are here.)   The survey also indicates that the majority of users post truthful information about themselves, such as name, home town, relationship status, and pictures, on social media websites.[2] The article also states that roughly 35% of the respondents were concerned or very concerned that an employer would view their online profiles and 54% of these users also believe that it is wrong for people to access information that is not intended for them.[3]  54.3% of the respondents agree with the statement “[w]ork life is completely separate from personal life, and what you do in one should not affect the other,”[4] and 68% specify that they were concerned about damage to their reputations from information posted on social media websites.[5]  It should be noted that the vast majority of respondents took personal responsibility for what they post on social media websites and accept the consequences for such posts.[6]  Finally, 81% of the respondents believe that it is inappropriate for an employer to require an employee to include the employer or manager in his or her network of online friends.[7]  In any event, the CDOS should take care in implementing any policy with respect to whether, or under what circumstances, the employer may access employees’ private information. 

 One practice that an organization should not adopt is requesting from an employee any of the employee’s social media website passwords.  This practice would 1) cause employees to violate the terms of service on most social media websites; and 2) may cause a public relations nightmare, as it did for the city of Bozeman, Montana.

How should a social media policy address privacy?  Should employers monitor employee activities?


[1] See Avner Levin and Patricia Sánchez Abril, Two Notion of Privacy Online, 11 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 1001 (2009) available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1428422  (hereinafter Levin); See related Deni Karsel, How to Create a Winning Corporate Social Media Policy, The Communications Strategist (August 26, 2009) available at http://thecommunicationsstrategist.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/how-to-create-a-winning-social-media-policy/; and Bill Ives, Is Management Focusing Too Much on Social Media Lurking and Monitoring?, FASTforward Blog (August 27, 2009) available at http://www.fastforwardblog.com/2009/08/27/is-management-focusing-too-much-on-social-media-lurking-and-monitoring/.

[2] Levin at 1024.

[3] Id. at 1026.

[4] Id. at 1043.

[5] Id. at 1039.

[6] Id. at 1031-33.

[7] Id. at 1044.

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