Thursday, October 13, 2011

Social media and privacy cannot coexist

During my appearance on The Sound of Ideas to discuss social media in the workplace, NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon made an interesting point about the accessibility of employees’ social media by employers. The question arose as to whether employees can short-circuit workplace problems by locking employers out via available privacy settings on sites such as Facebook. Lafe observed that in every social media case brought to the NLRB, the employer learned of the offending social media posts not by its own online discovery, but by a co-worker who narced. Privacy settings on Facebook can keep non-friends from accessing information, but they cannot prevent someone to whom you have granted access from turning that information over.

Here’s the snippet of my back and forth with Lafe Solomon discussing this issue during yesterday’s show:

Employees need to disavow themselves of the notion that there is such a thing as “privacy” in social media. After all, the word “social” is half of the equation. These are not conversations we are having with ourselves. People keep diaries for those matters they really want to keep private; they should not be broadcasting those private thoughts for the world to see. Once you put information out there, you have to assume that your employer will discover it.

Using social media is as much an exercise in reputational management as it is in the sharing of information. Until employees fully understand and embrace the implications of the sociability of these tools, the NLRB will remain busy deciding the merits of terminations that result from social media’s irresponsible use by those seeking the NLRB’s protection.