Tech Watch: Social Media and Privacy Rights
Can you believe that in Pennsylvania, it is perfectly legal for your employer to demand the passwords to your social media profiles?
Your tweets, posts, statuses, and pics may be a little safer today. Six states (California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, and New Jersey) recently banned employers from requesting an employee's personal login information to social media platforms. States are putting these laws in place as protection against invasion of privacy, which are being created after several employers demanded personal login information from employees to either "snoop" their accounts, or remove content and material of which they did not approve. As a result, employees were being robbed of personal freedoms outside of work and being punished within their place of employment for actions unrelated to performance.
Personally, this strikes a nerve. An employee should be held accountable for her/his actions within the office, at the office. What someone posts, believes, or publishes outside of the office should be irrelevant, as long as it does not interfere with or damage that person's professional performance, reputation, or the reputation of the company.
Clearly, employers still have access to all public information – that is, anything you choose to share, publish, or make public. Many people choose to keep this information hidden for fear of disapproval from others or in an attempt to separate their personal life from their professional life. This raises a debate on what someone should share and serves as a great opportunity to consider some of these tips and suggestions. The line between personal and professional becomes thinner each day as social media continues to deeply imbed itself into our culture and way of existence. In the end, if anyone wants to discover what you have been posting, they will find a way to do so – possibly through friends of friends or by using a different account.
But this is not as prevalent of a problem as some fear. Most employers are concerned with the operations of the business, not what you and your family and friends had for dinner last night. If you are using social media to post inappropriate photos or bash someone else, it will come back to get you. Remember that this is no different than before. Social media simply provides a new medium for individuals' bad decisions to be broadcasted on.
When it comes to editing/monitoring/screening your cyber existence, do so carefully. Ultimately, if you have everything hidden, it may keep you "safe," or it may raise suspicion. Looking at the opposite end of the spectrum, if you have everything public, it may convey self-confidence, pride, and individualism, or it may create opposition from those who do not agree with your views and behavior. Social media is no different than screaming at a party. Not everyone is always going to agree with what you say or your actions, so use your head – if you don't want everyone to know, don't post it.
We are taught that networking is the most powerful tool in the professional landscape, yet the fear of sharing their lives and events hinders many people. Opposition is a barrier to success that you will encounter whether you use social media or not. Leverage these social media platforms for what they are worth in a responsible manner. No one expects you to be a lifeless being outside of the office. Share your thoughts and experiences, by doing so you become more relatable, but – assume your boss, parents and grandparents will see it, because they probably will – and then post confidently.
Brennan Donnelly can be contacted at Epic@ErieReader.com