Posts Tagged ‘social networking policy’

Stored Communications Act & Social Media

January 22, 2011

Here is a recent case where an employer was liable for statutory damages under the Stored Communications Act because the employer took the employees’ personal email account log-in and used it to access their accounts.  They were looking for information about violations of a noncompete clause and they found it in those emails.   The employee counter-sued and won.

How Does this Relate to Social Media Usage by Employees?

What if the employee had set up a Twitter account for their company and used their private (Gmail or Yahoo) email account to register with Twitter and communicate with company vendors, clients and prospective clients privately?  Now say that on other grounds, the employer decides  to terminate the employee. Afterwards, the employee sues for wrongful termination and the employee gets access to the employees log-on information for the private email account attached to the Twitter account and decide to review the email traffic? If the employee finds out, he might have grounds for another cause of action under the Stored Communications Act according to this decision.

What Should an Employer Do?

If you want an employee to promote the company through Twitter make sure that:

  • The employee is instructed to use the employer’s email domain for all social networking profiles
  • That a unique email account is to setup for the employee to use for social media.  That way if an issue arises and that communication must be revealed, it will be much easier for the employer to identify the appropriate email alias for that analysis.

Law.com social networking article misleading

January 24, 2010

Law Technology News part of Law.com  is publishing a series of articles on social networking in the workplace and here is their second article in the series.  They claim the goal of the article is to, “discusses the laws that impact social networking in the workplace and provides guidance on developing a social networking and blogging policy.”

However, I think its real goal is to attempt to create a social networking policy in the workplace that shields employers from litigation and that is a very different thing than creating a effective social networking policy.  Here are my five objections to their recommendations.

1. “Cover all forms of online communication and conduct.”  So does this include what I write on my Amazon reviews or Yelp?  Does this include my online banking transactions?  What about bidding on eBay items?  The list goes on and on.  And the authors of this article want the social networking policy to cover not only on the job “social networking” but anytime use of social networking.

2.  There is no definition of social networking.  This is particularly problematic given that new technology emerges very rapidly and the separation between on the job and off hours maybe blurred beyond recognition.  How will employees have any idea what is covered and what isn’t?

3.  The use of catch-all provisions.  Twice the article recommends that the employer create catch-all provisions, one that covers all local, state and federal laws and another one focused on covering all conflict of interests or “otherwise harms the employer’s business interests.”  Is there any doubt that this article is simply focused on shielding employers from potential litigation not to assist employers in writing a workable social networking policy?

4.  No discussion of the need to constantly monitor the policy in the face of rapidly changing technology?  Five years ago, no one was seriously thinking about the dangers of social networking in the workplace.  What about five years from now?  Do the authors really think that social networking technology won’t evolve further?

5.  No discussion of an employee training program in the appropriate use of social networking.  Just because social networking is pervasive doesn’t mean that everyone is knowledgeable in all the various social networking websites and potential uses and misuses.  Employees don’t simply need to be “aware” of the policy, they need to understand what exactly the policy refers to which will require training.

Twitter policy for your business?

January 11, 2010

This article discusses the pros and cons involved in developing a Twitter policy for a business.  The particular focus is avoiding employees spilling embarrassing beans about the company.  The scenarios are very real and provide good coverage the concerns any business would have about loose-lipped employees.  But a Twitter policy?

First, none of these situations are unique to Twitter.   They could happen on Facebook or a blog etc.  While the article is a response to a question specifically about Twitter, its important to education readers that the issues discussed aren’t unique to Twitter.  Some readers may have never blogged or “Tweeted” and would think that businesses need to have separate policies for each kind of social networking when they don’t.

Second, all the scenarios reflect poorly on the employee which is why training is critical part of any social networking initiative.  In particular the question that should be drummed into employees’ heads is: how will your social networking help your career?  Bad mouthing your current employer or fellow employees will never help you to get a promotion or a new job.