Charles explained that laws are miles behind where social media is today. Why does it lack speed? Charles asks, take a glance at who makes laws, and you will quickly understand why, a bunch of oldies who are somewhat disconnected to what it all is. There was a recent example of a Judge who had to dismiss himself form hearing a case as the defendant was a ‘friend’ of his on Facebook.
Within organisations, traditional law is far more relevant. Telstra has a policy for use of social media while at work, and it can be summarised with the 3 r’s. Representation (ensure your identity is clear), responsibility (ensure you are factual) and respect (Interact with others in a relevant manner). Whilst at work it is expected that staff will use the internet for personal use, and staff must use their own judgement on time allocations.
Staff have lost their jobs for telling their boss they are sick, and posting photos of themselves at the beach on their Facebook page. Another example was a man who recorded a video himself doing ‘wheelies’ on a work forklift, the company owner recognised his forklift on the video as well as the staff members distinctive haircut. He lost his job the following morning. Is this a breach of staff privacy, no says Charles. You put it online for the public to see, it is no longer private, and no longer a breech of confidence.
Another example was a staff member who had their own private enterprise online selling adult sex toys. The business was conducted after business hours using an anonymous profile. A fellow staff member alerted the boss, and subsequently the staff member was fired. The reason was that it was distracting to their core activities, when in actual fact they didnt agree with the nature of the activities.
A final example was a sales representative who on their departure from a company, took a copy of all email addresses of their clients. They then sent an invitation to every email address to join the users LinkedIn as contacts. The prior employer deemed the emails of clients to be in their interests and took the matter to court. The judge said ‘the employee took something secret to use against the best interests of the previous employer’. Although it was not clearly defined in the companies policy, it could be easily solved by inserting a line saying ‘client emails are confidential and must not be removed’.