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Social Media at Work: What Do Employers Need to Know?

With new forms of social media emerging all the time, employers need to stay up-to-date to prevent employees from abusing social media. The SNS application “BeReal” has been attracting attention recently. BeReal is an app that invites users to share photos with their friends at a specific time each day. At different times each day, users are simultaneously notified to take and share a photo within two minutes of her. The premise is that friends share “real” photos of their lives in real time. It is intended to be an antidote to many of the filtered, choreographed and “fake” photos on other forms of social media.

So why is this a workplace issue? Simply put, if you take a picture of yourself at work with your computer screen in the background or your paperwork on your desk, you may inadvertently share confidential information. This alert reviews key tips for employers to address this risk from an employment law perspective.

What should employers do to protect their businesses from social media abuse?

social media policy

The first step is to make sure your company has a solid social media policy in place. Ideally, you should set clear guidelines for your employees’ use of social media both inside and outside the workplace. This should include:

  • Be aware of the company’s reputation and do not post anything that could bring the company’s reputation down. This extends to using private social media accounts and using content that may damage the company’s reputation.
  • Protect company confidential information, intellectual property assets, and confidential information.
  • Protection of Third Party Confidentiality and Privacy.
  • Guidelines for proper use of company resources and use of social media during work hours.
  • Guidance on the proper use of social media, including prohibitions on harassment, bullying and discrimination.When
  • Consider how social media policies interact with other policies, such as disciplinary, internet usage, and equal opportunity policies.

education and training

Employers should also provide education and training to workers about such policies so that they are actively understood and used, rather than simply collecting dust. This includes educating employees about the risks associated with disclosure or misuse of company confidential information, such as inadvertent inclusion in photos posted on BeReal and other social media accounts. It’s also worth reminding employees that confidential information can be interpreted quite broadly and not just “top secret” company business. The same is true for “personal data” and what may constitute a breach of data protection obligations.

Employees have an implied confidentiality period during their employment relationship. This is often reinforced by explicit contractual confidentiality clauses in employment contracts. If an employee discloses sensitive information on social media, it constitutes a breach of confidentiality and can cause serious damage to the business and/or subject the employee to disciplinary action. It is also worth adding that disclosure of third-party information may mean that the company is in breach of its confidentiality and data protection obligations with respect to the third party.

What action can an employer take against an employee if he or she accidentally discloses confidential information?

Disclosure of confidential business information on social media should be treated promptly and seriously. Our Social Media Policy may stipulate the consequences of such actions or refer to the Company’s disciplinary policy. Such disciplinary process may include: Conducting necessary investigations. Give employees a chance to tell their side of the story at disciplinary hearings; determine appropriate disciplinary action (anything from a verbal warning to termination, depending on the specific facts and circumstances).

In regulated sectors, employers may also be required to report incidents to regulators and be prepared to demonstrate the protections they have in place and how they can prevent a recurrence. If the inadvertent disclosure of confidential information is also a data breach, employers must take necessary steps to address such data protection implications.

Points to Employers

With more and more social media apps being released, it’s worth revisiting and reviewing our social media policies. Keep policies up to date and deploy refresher training to ensure employees understand risks and best practice guidelines. While this article has focused on employment law implications, our team of data privacy experts can help with questions about potential data protection implications.