Social media has eroded workplace privacy

Tom Newcombe , 01 Feb 2013


Employees' workplace privacy is being invaded by increased use of social media, according to a survey published today by security software firm AVG technologies.

It found more than half (53%) of workers surveyed believed that misuse of social media infiltrates the workplace with often negative effects on employees' privacy, forcing many to switch off or limit their use of social networking sites.

In the survey of more than 4,000 workers, one in 10 discovered colleagues using social media initiated secret discussions about them online and 11% have had embarrassing photos or videos taken at a work event and uploaded onto social media sites.

The survey also states that as the use of social media increases for both personal and professional purposes, the privacy many workers value and expect is slowly diminishing through employee misuse and cyber-bullying.

To prevent personal information from being circulated at work, many adults are turning away from social media altogether. A quarter of those who felt they had their privacy invaded at work now avoid using social media altogether.

Jenny Ungless, an independent HR consultant and life coach, said: "While you can't completely control what people say about you online, you can control the 'ammunition' they have against you.

"Being more careful about your posts on social networks or ensuring your privacy settings protect your personal information are just a few steps you can take.

"The research shows adults are now finding themselves in unchartered territory when it comes to social media in the workplace.

"Having to ward off colleagues' romantic advances online, suffer the embarrassment of unwanted personal photos seen by colleagues or have personal details from social networks used against you, are all things that adults haven't typically had to deal with."

Ungless added: "We often talk about bringing work home with us, yet little has been done to date to tackle our home-life now being taken into the office and the possible implications of this."

Tony Anscombe, AVG's senior security evangelist, said: "This study highlights the need for a combination of greater education around social media alongside increased attention and care by both employees and employers to their social media etiquette at work.

"We're not just talking about employees remaining responsible for what they post online on social networks and ensuring it is not bringing themselves or their company into disrepute or harming their colleagues, employers can trip themselves up just as easily when managing the company's own social media presence.

"Until everyone is clear about exactly what is and isn't acceptable online behaviour, trying to enforce policies will just fail, leaving the door open to cyber-bullying and invasion of privacy."

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... The role of leadership of all this

Helena Moore 01 Feb 2013

Interesting research. Here at Bromford Group we are prolific users of social media from our landscape gardeners down to our CEO as an internal and external communications channel, for accessing research and best practice and  building networks etc. We use many channels ...Yammer, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+,  Wordpress, and this list grows all the time. People use all these channels personally and of course we have business ones too. We've taken the approach of supporting people to use these channels and keep safe... We love being able to give our people a voice and they love it too. A big part for us is a relationship of trust .. We trust our colleagues to do the right thing. We tell people that the bottom line is "if you wouldn't say this out loud don't put in social media". These days what happens in Vegas don't stay there no more! If something happens that breaks a 'rule' we see this as a leadership issue... The same as this happening in the olde worlde.... Albeit that it's happening on a different channel.  With the responsibility for Organisational Development I'm focussed on developing our leaders to on the one hand encourage colleagues to join the big conversation out there and wealth of valuable information and to add the the mix of communications channels we have.  On the other hand, leaders need to keep their team safe, play their role in protecting the business reputation and tackle inappropriate use. To do  this they need to operate in the soc med space so you have to take them there and build their confidence. doing this is a whole other story. 

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