Online Privacy Policy and What This Means for You


Many of you probably already heard of the girl, Jenny, who quit her job in a rather public way – through photos and a dry erase board. Despite the laughter of the situation and afterward finding out it was an elaborate hoax, average individuals should take warning of what they do online.

Type in the query “Facebook firing” in Google. Go ahead I’ll wait. Surprised at the amount of people terminated because of their actions on a social networking site? I sure as Hell was. Firings of individuals posting on Twitter or Facebook has happened multiple times. Lots of average people being canned for what they thought was personal ranting.

People feel comfortable posting any type of content, believing that their message is only viewable to close friends and family. Sadly, those posts are the equivalent of a sandwich board and megaphone on a street corner. As a business it’s important to also monitor what your employees are doing online. An unhappy customer expressing his/her concerns is bad enough, but no matter how you look at it, negative comments from an employee just look horrible.

The line between what is private and what is public online is getting increasingly blurry. Therefore I’m going to throw this out Real Talk style. Below I’m going to outline what you, as an individual and as a business, should do to protect yourself in the digital jungle.

For the Individual:

So you’ve had a tough day at Crappy Job, Inc and decide to go home and release a little steam on the ole Facebook. Sadly there might be consequences depending on the context and perceived intent of any posting you do. Don’t think your job is worth monitoring? Everyone from business professionals to waitresses have been fired. So what steps can you take to maintain your opinion and job?

Set up Privacy Settings:

This might work out the same as trying to create a submarine with mesh wiring; still it’s a step that should be completed. Facebook is generally known for its lax behavior when it comes to maintaining security standards. Knowing that setting up privacy settings is the equivalent to locking a door in a glass house, they should still be done because it will keep the computer illiterate and lazy away from your information. Still, once you realize how public a forum like Facebook is you will, hopefully, be more reserved in your posting.

Do not show employer information

Creating some distance between you and your employers might be a path you deem appropriate. If your job does not require you to have a web presence, then not posting your information provides a nice disconnect between your personal and professional life. However, employers have still fired employees over content they wrote about on social networking sites without actually naming their employer. Social Networking is a lot like the Wild West at this point. The laws are gray and a lot of the land is unregulated. Thus I will state, once again, that social networking sites are pretty transparent and even if you do not state specifics about an employer you might still be soliciting a pink slip. This step is pointless if you have set up and maintain a LinkedIn account. See where I’m going with this?

Be aware

I realize that I am starting to get a little repetitive. Good. The more aware you are that most employers are, or will be, monitoring what you do and say on these sites will allow you to effectively judge how you want to be viewed. The best approach is to structure your online persona in a professional manner while making sure to never divulge any information about your job. The actions you take on these sites will reflect your current standing at your job and in the future with other potential employers.
For Businesses

Instate an Online Privacy Policy:

By clearly outlining appropriate practices in relation to online behavior you will eliminate any gray areas that may arise. These policies should be an extension of your normal Business Conduct Guideline made applicable to the online world. Spell out common sense when presenting information as well as specific issues that may only occur in your company or industry. You cannot stop individuals from posting and contributing to content online, but by setting up fair guidelines that promote online use your company can help to create a better online presence through your employees. IBM has set up an excellent Online Privacy Policy entitled Social Computing Guidelines which is worth emulating.

Set up a Reputation Monitoring Dashboard

If you do not already have a dashboard you should regardless of your employees’ actions. The ability to see how your brand and company is doing online is crucial to understanding your market while quickly responding to any problems customers may have expressed through online means. Setting up a dashboard is easy and can be set up within a few hours. Setting up a specific feed to follow all employees that write blogs is another step a business can take to monitor employees’ adherence to the Online Privacy Policy your company has instated.

Whether you are an individual or company, understanding the importance of the relationship between the two online personas is crucial. If done properly a company will be able to leverage their employees into a cohesive online unit with multiple interests all following a detailed Online Privacy Policy. Understanding that current/potential employers often use these sites to make hiring/firing decisions will allow you to create a professional web presence of which you can be proud.

Jordan is the new kid on the block not to be confused with Jordan Knight, original band member for NKOTB. He, apparently, enjoys early 90’s boy bands and obscure awkward humor. Jordan is also a fan of social media and Search Engine Optimization.