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How to protect yourself online

05 March 2013, 12:11

Be careful what you say online, or you might end up paying the price.

It might sound a lot like “Big Brother”, but the possibility of being taken to court by your employer because of something you’ve said online is a growing concern for employees worldwide.

A number of people have been fired for what they’ve said on their organisation’s Twitter account and even what you say about your company on your personal Facebook or Twitter account can be used against you.

Know your social media policy

Have you read your organisation’s social media policy? Do you even have one?

A social media policy sets out a code of conduct for how to manage the company’s social media accounts: what you can say, what you can’t say, how to say it. Amongst other things, it covers issues like respect, honesty, integrity and company privacy.

It’s very possible in today’s world of instant information and immediate gratification to get something wrong online.

Customers expect the immediacy of face-to-face contact with you via social media and they want answers NOW. In the heat of the moment, you might provide the wrong information because you haven’t checked the facts or consulted with the expert in your organisation.

The lesson here is: familiarise yourself with your organisation’s social media policy and think before you tweet as an employee. It’s so easy these days to blurt out an opinion online either in a flash of anger or merely in your eagerness to respond to a customer who needs information.

Before you hit ‘send’, stop and think: Does what you’re about to say represent what the company stands for? Is it accurate? Is it going to result in an online squabble between you and the customer? If it will hurt your organisation in even the smallest way, then just don’t do it.

Know your national law

Legal advisor, Shihaam Shaikh, wrote a fascinating blog entry recently, warning employees to be responsible digital citizens. She pointed to a case in which two employees were dismissed because of Facebook updates in which they mentioned their company:

“Had a day from hell! Why would someone be so f#*@+*#* mean!!”

“From so called ‘professionalism’ 2 dumb brats runnin a mickey mouse business”

Regardless of the fact that these comments were on their personal Facebook pages and the company name was not mentioned, the court held up their dismissal because they had no security settings preventing the general public from accessing their pages.

Cases like this are isolated to countries like the U.S., right?

Wrong. This was an African case, and they’re becoming more common.

I wrote here last year about how much I objected to employers poking around in my “private” online world. My Facebook and my tweets have nothing to do with them. If cases like these are anything to go by, I was being naive: The defendants in the Facebook case used privacy as a defense, but it didn’t hold up in court.

Whatever your views on privacy and trust in an online environment, the fact is that we can no longer afford to be flippant about these issues. Dismissing them might just cost you your job.

- Women24

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