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As a social entrepreneur in the BeNeLux my focus lies on a holistic approach for helping companies mature their social media exploits, externally and/or internally. Rogier is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 45 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Should we let employers access our private social media?

08.08.2013
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No. Period. There is no discussion.

However, the ever rising “threat” of social media (and an open Internet) still scares the manure out of many businesses and governments.

DarkCloudsBut, we do not hand over our paper mail, we do not let ‘agents’ follow us around at a party or let them listen in at the diner table. So, why is “social media privacy” so different?

Because it’s all digital and not to difficult to access (all you need is a password). Our privacy can be violated so much easier. Now, when (some) employers are vetting their current and new employees, they ask for the account name and password.

This is, of course, ludicrous.

Dark clouds are gathering

A question posted on Reddit mentioned a company demanding access to the Facebook and LinkedIn accounts of their employees. Not handing over this information could lead to termination. Yes, read that again.

Give up your passwords (and your privacy) or get fired.

Naturally, they have excellent reasons, such as; preventing insider trading or sharing information which investors aren’t allowed to see, you know, protect the innocent.

And now US congress shot down a “Facebook privacy protection” law, this just makes me wonder; Why?
Facebook’s terms of service clearly states you are not allowed to give your password to anyone, so an employer can’t ask you to violate that agreement (why should there be a law at all?).

Keeping taps

Monitoring public expressions of employees on social media outlets is perfectly legal, and it makes sense too. It can (potentially) give a company some insights into an employee’s behaviour. Besides, the company should monitor the various social platforms anyway.., to protect its on-line reputation.

But, private is private for a reason.

Besides, as an employer, you don’t ask for private information of your CEO, do you? There is plenty of information kept secret which could be of high value to a job seeker. No full disclosure there.

In the old days

How did they ‘prevent’ the disclosing of sensitive information before social media?

Well, they had you sign a non-disclosure agreement. And a mandatory training explained any communication guidelines and the risks involved.

And, depending on the severity of the violation, you could be reprimanded, fired or be charged criminally. And, apparently this worked just fine. So, now, with new technology, why demand access to it? Just because they can?

I understand that when dealing with sensitive information employees need to be careful, but that’s always been the case. Granted, the speed at which information can spread has increased dramatically, and I do understand the need to address this. But, not at the cost of ones privacy.

Create awareness

As with all things, if your not aware of it, you can’t act on it.

The problem with social media, and blogs, is that common sense seems to take an early retirement. Leaving people to do incredibly stupid things, things they might never have done otherwise. Or it was very less likely that someone would find out.

Coaching employees, educating them on the pitfalls of social media can go a long way, maybe even all the way.

Be aware

For users of social platforms it becomes more and more important to keep your professional life in mind. Employers will google you, they will check your LinkedIn and anything else they can dig up.., why wouldn’t they. They might even use your Klout score to assess potential value.

Yes, I know, it’s all algorithms and air, but is it really? As soon as something can be used against you.., it’s no longer “virtual”, is it? When what you do, or what you say on-line affects you in the real world.., well, then even your Klout score becomes a real value.

And (real) private stuff? Keep it safe, keep it hidden.

Have encountered any privacy violations at work? Leave a cautionary tale in the comments.

Original post

Published at DZone with permission of Rogier Noort, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)