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Social Media In, Common Sense Out

Whether it be Facebook's lack of support for privacy, Google's invasion of our privacy, or our individual inability to realize we no longer have any privacy... Privacy is a huge topic right now. I argue, though, that it's not just privacy that is failing us. It's also our inability to apply good ole common sense.

The latest story regarding an employee who got fired for her Facebook update and the ensuing outrage from her supporters really got me to thinking...If I were sitting at a table telling my friends how much I hated my job and criticized the people with whom I work, and my boss was sitting at the next table overhearing the entire conversation... would I get fired? Probably not. But at the very least, my credibility, reputation and career path would be severely damaged. And my common sense would tell me that it's probably time to start job searching.

What's the difference between this situation and displaying your discontentment on Facebook? HUGE. Online communication has taken what used to be conversations in controlled settings into an open community for public consumption. Nothing is sacred when it comes to social media and the web. NOTHING.

Late last year, Proofpoint released a study that showed 18 percent of companies had investigated a data loss event via a blog or message board in the past 12 months. 17 percent disciplined an employee for violating blog or message board policies, while nearly nine percent reported terminating an employee for such a violation (both increases from 2008, 11 percent and six percent, respectively). And with social participation increasing daily, we will see these numbers continue to rise.

Bring Back Common Sense

Think about what you say before you say it and don't post something that you will regret later. Even if you delete it from YOUR computer screen, that doesn't mean someone else hasn't already pulled it up on THEIRS. What you think you are sharing with only your Facebook "friends" can still go viral - online as well as offline. And if you're an "open mouth, insert foot" kind of person, you might want to take a look at the resources below. Actually, you should just take a look anyway:

  1. Customize Who Can See What -- I'm always surprised to hear how many people don't take advantage of Facebook Friends lists. Organize your friends into lists on Facebook, so that you can segment the information you share on your profile.
  2. Check Out this Privacy Resource -- Privacy settings are something that many Facebook users are regularly confused about. Be sure to read this excellent post on the 10 most important privacy settings any Facebook user should know.
  3. Download and read this Facebook Privacy E-book - This e-book presents a thorough overview of the most important privacy settings which includes previous settings that are still relevant as well as new privacy settings that have been added by Facebook.
  4. Understand Legal Ramifications -- Disclosure of business information among social networking sites is keeping Employment lawyers extremely busy these days. Whether you're an employer or an employee, you should read the "Network Interference: A Legal Guide to the Commercial Risks and Rewards of the Social Media Phenomenon (2nd Edition)" White Paper published by ReedSmith. It will help you to understand the huge potential benefits of social media and how to protect against the inherent legal risks surrounding it.

Examples of When Common Sense Failed

  • Actions Speak Just as Loud as Words -- Even Facebook's first president, former Napster co-founder Sean Parker, was fired from the company in 2005 at the insistence of Facebook VC Jim Breyer after a cocaine-related arrest in North Carolina. Though Breyer had tremendous respect for Parker's intelligence, he was seen as bringing a volatile edge to the company's culture. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
  • I Got Fired Before I Got Hired -- Connor Riley, a 22-year-old pursuing her master's degree in information management and systems at University of California, Berkeley, wrote: Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work. Cisco employee Tim Levad saw the post and responded with his own tweet: Who is the hiring manager? I'm sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the Web.
  • Don't Get "Dooced" If You Blog -- Who can forget Heather Armstrong, who got fired several years ago for writing about her job on her personal blog, Dooce.com? The episode launched the phrase "getting dooced" to mean being fired for blogging about work. (Source: More Money Blog)
  • Don't Tell Facebook You're Bored at Work -- Kimberley Swann thought her job was boring. So she said so on her Facebook page. In response, her employer, Ivell Marketing and Logistics of Clacton, U.K., gave her this update: "Following your comments made on Facebook about your job and the company we feel it is better that, as you are not happy and do not enjoy your work we end your employment with Ivell Marketing & Logistics with immediate effect." (Source: CNET)
  • Don't Insult Your Company's Clients -- Virgin Atlantic sacked 13 cabin crew staff on Friday after they criticised some of the British airline's passengers on the social networking website Facebook. The airline opened an investigation on October 23 following complaints from passengers and other Virgin staff members over the cabin crew's Facebook discussion. "It was found that all 13 staff participated in a discussion on the networking site Facebook, which brought the company into disrepute and insulted some of our passengers," Virgin Atlantic's director of communications Paul Charles told Reuters. "There's a time and a place for Facebook. But there's no justification for it to be used as a sounding board for staff of any company to criticise the very passengers who ultimately pay their salaries." (Source: NowPublic)
  • Playing Hookey, And Then Forgetting Who's Looky-ing -- A woman got fired from a Swiss insurance agency after being caught on facebook while out sick. The woman claimed she could not go to work, and that she couldn't sit a computer, that she had to lay in the dark. However, an employee at the insurance company saw that her Facebook account had been active. This destroyed all trust the insurance company had in her. (Source: Sodahead)

Join The Conversation

  • Courtney Hunt's picture
    Jun 3 Posted 7 years ago CourtneyHunt Nice piece, Elizabeth. I like the points, examples, and resources you provide. I just shared the piece with the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community via LI, Twitter, and FB.
  • Elizabeth Lupfer's picture
    May 20 Posted 7 years ago SpankyGirl Hi Chet, thanks for your comment and positive feedback! My days at AOL taught me that YOU are just as much responsible for your online privacy as much as the application is. I think people assume that privacy will take care of itself, but we still need to ensure that we continue to maintain personal responsibility for our own privacy as well -- just as you said. See you in the tweeties!!! Elizabeth
  • May 20 Posted 7 years ago ChetDavis While it can seem unbelievable that someone could lose their job due to a 'little post' on some website I think your article nailed the issue - common sense and personal responsibility.  Especially with the inter-connectedness of today's technology (and the new/changing policies & practices like with Facebook).  If you don't want your grandma, boss and kids to hear/read your thoughts, don't post em!  Good wrap as well on the resources for managing your privacy.

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