Our Thinking

Social Media and the Changing Face of Privacy

Posted by Laurie Dolan on Jan 16, 2012 12:45:05 PM

Although many individuals have fully embraced Social Media with a passion, organizations are more cautious about joining into the frenzy and are not so quick to embrace the various forms of Social Media for Business Media (marketing and collaborative) purposes. Of the many issues organizations have to address with regard to Social Media, the number one issue is privacy. Privacy is based on what the organization allows to be published online because once information, true or fabricated, is published, it is difficult, if not impossible, to retract.

In the world of traditional media (e.g., newspapers, television and radio), there is regulated accountability and ownership regarding published content and associated privacy of information. In the world of Social Media, privacy is not what it used to be because there is no clear ownership and accountability - it is a transport provider only and not accountable for the content.

Privacy issues for individuals and organizations are related to how they use Social Media platforms. Individuals primarily use Social Media platforms to connect and collaborate with people and to access and share information around the world. Organizations primarily use Social Media platforms to engage with their customers, build their brands and communicate information to the rest of the world. It is also becoming increasingly more common for organizations to screen candidates on Social Media networking sites before interviews.

Organization’s Rights

Whether or not organizations choose to use Social Media platforms, they should define and document a Social Media strategy, policies (e.g., code of business conduct), and governance and risk management including compliance conditions. Organizations cannot effectively block and police Social Media sites, but they can manage content and privacy from an organization perspective. Clearly defined policies and guidelines should be created to identify what can be published, who can publish it, who the publication is intended to reach, where or on what platform the content will be published, and when (or frequency) of the publication.

Employees’ Rights

Employees have the right to publish personal information; personal interests, thoughts, and opinions; and pictures and videos on their Social Media platforms. However, their rights as employees to publish information about their organization need to be addressed as conditions of employment. Employee Social Media policies might include statements such as:

  • Employees using Social Media will promote the company and protect the company brand, will get management approval to upload pictures of company events, and will not disclose confidential or proprietary information.
  • The personal use of Social Media in the workplace during work hours is not permitted.
  • Personal blogs will not include confidential or proprietary information and will include a disclaimer that your opinions do not represent those of your company.
  • Employees are required to inform their manager of any blogs to which they regularly contribute.

Organizations should consider establishing a visible Social Media team or individual who will be accountable for defining the strategy, policies and controls; reviewing and authorizing content to be published; monitoring and tracking compliance; and reporting on activities, deviations and issues.

An article by Chris Nerney – “Social Media Security Threats” – published in Network World on May 31, 2011, outlines the top five social media security threats which enterprises need to address to make sure their employees practice “safe social media” (5 top social media security threats).

In Summary

Social Media is transforming the way we live and do business. Organizations need to take seriously the use of Social Media in the workplace and the associated risks and issues of privacy, security, productivity, etc. – both from a business or organization perspective as well as from a management and employee perspective.


Topics: Security, Social Media

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