Social media has eroded workplace privacy


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."