SC Magazine: SC Magazine: Shining a Spotlight on: Social Media - Is Privacy Dead?

November 2013:

Stephen Lawton of SC Magazine quotes Tatiana Melnik in his story entitled Is Privacy Dead? in SC Magazines Spotlight issue evaluating social media uses in the workplace. Stephen's story discusses the different perspectives involving social media use by employees

In the last few years, employee use of social media has become an increasing concern for employers and regulators.

Employers are increasingly monitoring employee use of social media and instituting policies and procedures to limit employee speech.

"With the ever-increasing popularity of social media in the last few years, some companies have gone to great pains to exert some form of control over what employees say about the company, even when the employees are off the clock," says attorney Tatiana Melnik of Tampa, Fla. These efforts are in response, at least in part, to the damage that can be done to a company’s reputation by bad employee behavior, she says.

"Policies should be designed for and comport with the practices of the company," Melnik says. "Companies should not take a generic policy off the web and add it to their policy manual. This practice can actually be quite problematic because courts, regulators, plaintiffs’ attorneys and employees will compare the actions actually taken by the employer with the stated policy." If the employer’s actions do not match the policy, she warns that this leaves the employer open to a number of claims, including discrimination.

"It may not be necessary for companies to draft a new policy because existing policies can be expanded, or may already address social media tools and mobile devices," she notes. "Companies should avoid death by policy drowning."

"Companies should also consider carefully about who has the authority to post, because while it is important to have a social media presence, having multiple people posting information may lead to inconsistent messaging," Melnik says.

Further, depending on how the social media accounts are structured, companies should have documentation in place setting forth who owns the social media accounts and the related contacts. Companies that have hourly employees need to be careful to ensure they are not working more than their allotted time, because otherwise the companies may run afoul of wage and hour laws, where they should have been paying those employees overtime, she says.

Employers are also particularly concerned because employees may inadvertently share confidential information.

While the political debate [over whether corporation's are people] continues, "corporations do have some privacy rights by virtue of laws in place to protect confidential and secret information," attorney Melnik notes.

"But, just like for regular people, once the information is out there in the world, it is almost impossible to get it back," she says. "This is part of the reason that companies should create appropriate policies, train their workforce, enforce the policies, use appropriate technical and physical security measures, have access controls and review audit logs regularly, and carefully review who has and who should have access to sensitive data."

SC Magazine, published online at - Read the full article here: SC Magazine: SC Spotlight on Social Media - Is Privacy Dead? (free registration required)

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