Legal and Ethical Issues Associated with Employee Use of Social Networks
Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can help employees enhance a
company’s marketing, recruiting, security, and safety.
However, employees’ use of social
networking sites and employers’ access of those sites can result in illegal and unethical
behavior, such as discrimination and privacy invasions.
Companies must gauge whether and
how to rely upon employees’ use of personal social networking sites and how much freedom
employees should have in using networks inside and outside of the companies.
summarizes the latest legal and ethical issues associated with employee use of social networks
and provides recommended corporate policies.
Online social networks (OSNs) provide employees and job applicants with a powerful
vehicle to communicate personal and company information.
These Web-based services, which
include Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, YouTube, Yelp, and Flickr, and
others, “allow individuals to (1) construct a public profile…., (2) articulate a list of other
users…., and (3) view and traverse their list of connections” (Boyd and Ellison, 2007: 1).
broader definition of OSNs also could include Internet forums, blogs, online profiles, podcasts,
e-mail, instant messaging, music-sharing, and voice over IP (Winter, Wyman Companies, 2009).
OSN use has seen significant growth in recent years.
In February, 2010, Facebook
reported 400 million active users worldwide (Owyang, 2010).
That number rose to
approximately 500 million by August, 2010 (Facebook.com, 2010).
As the number of Facebook
and other OSN users continues to rise, so too will the amount of personal information employees
and job applicants post.
A quick Google search of “Facebook” and “employment” results in
numerous examples of job applicants or current employees, particularly young ones, who have
been denied or lost a job because of personal information posted on an OSN site such as
Facebook or MySpace.
Moreover, the number of employers who research applicants and