Social Media in the Workplace

Among many issues facing businesses in today’s world and how they use technology, monitoring employees is a major debate. Plenty of employers nowadays implement social media policies in an attempt to control employees’ use of social media. As a result, many have passed or are passing laws to address concerns about employers overstepping their boundaries and to limit employer access to a current or potential employee’s social media accounts.

Take the State of California for example: Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 1844 (Labor Code Section 980) into law on September 27, 2012. Under this law, employers are prohibited to ask for social media login credentials of employees or job applicants, to ask them to log on to their social media accounts in the presence of employers and tell the employers about their social media activities, or to discharge, discipline, threaten, or retaliate against those who refuse to follow employers’ unlawful request or demand.

Employers should only be allowed to ask employees to disclose their personal social media information only if it is part of an ongoing investigation into alleged employee misconduct. Any information gained from the investigation must be used only for the sole purposes of that investigation or a related proceeding.

On the other hand, employees ought to be aware that employers may legally require employees to release their account information in order to sign in on company-issued electronic devices. In addition, this newly enacted law does not forbid employers from accessing publicly available social media. Likewise, if employees have voluntarily friended their superiors, the latter may then be granted lawful access to their social media content.

Employees are not entitled to personal privacy when it comes to using a company-issued device, which is clearly a property of the company that no employees can claim it their own. Employees should keep in mind that employers reserve the right to search their company-issued devices for a legitimate work-related reason, and that employers may very well have legal access to their accounts along with all data retrieved on devices provided by the company.

Now that the question of whether employers can monitor their employees’ social media activities has been answered, the central argument is not so much about whether employers should monitor their employees’ cyberactivities but about what a majority of us as employees should do to discourage employers from online snooping. As we all know, employers keep tabs on our social media alias no matter what, but there are at least a few things you can do in general to protect your personal data:

  • Do not conduct personal business on a company-issued equipment such as cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc. Do not use online banking in a public Wi-Fi environment. Be sure to sign out after using a public or shared computer.
  • Secure all of your online accounts with privacy settings and strong, unique passwords, change passwords regularly, and in the meantime minimize NSFW (not safe for work) posts.
  • Learn to prevent from cyberattacks. Keep your operating system, antivirus software, and antispyware technology up to date and firewall turned on. Be careful what you download and what you click online.

This article was written by Mildred D. Li, a writer for dusk magazine. 

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