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Your Social Media Privacy Rights as an Employee

Monitoring Social Media Usage by Your Employees

A large number of companies involve some kind of monitoring the Internet and social media activity of their employees. In general, such tracking is legal and even beneficial not only for the employers but also for their workers. However, there are still a lot of misconceptions about the whole process of monitoring Internet activity in the working place.

As employees, many people are concerned when it comes to being monitored while at work. What kind of tracking is legal? To what extent can your employer interfere with your personal social media activity? Can you get fined or even fired if you access Facebook or Twitter from a computer at work? Are there any laws protecting you in this scenario? In this article, we will cover the most common questions and concerns regarding monitoring and social media employee privacy rights.

What Actions Are Illegal for Your Employer to Do?

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You always should know your rights, because some employers might either want to take advantage of you or do not know their limitations. If you are uncomfortable with some of your boss’s actions or if you are unsure whether they should be permitted, here is a list of things that employers are not allowed to do:

  • Request a password to your personal accounts, such as social media websites or e-mail;
  • Request you to log into your social media for inspecting it;
  • Request any private info regarding your personal social media profiles;
  • Request you to follow their accounts or subscribe to them;
  • Request you to make any changes to your personal settings in order to allow more convenient access to your profile for them or other people.

You have every right to deny any of the requests listed above. It is illegal for the employer to manipulate your decision or threaten you with certain actions like fining or firing. In addition, they are not allowed to:

  • Decrease your hours;
  • Prevent you from receiving a day off;
  • Downgrading your position.

Employers also cannot refuse to hire you only because you have claimed your rights.

What is Your Employer Allowed to Do?

So, are employers allowed to monitor the Internet activity and social media usage of their workers to a certain extent? The answer is yes. Not all tracking of your Internet activity is considered intrusive and illegal. Here are the things that your boss can do regarding your social media:

  • Look through the information available at your publicly open accounts. For example, if you have a Facebook page with certain info visible for anyone on the Internet, an employer can check it and decide whether you will be hired or not;
  • Fire or fine you if the content you post publically serves the purpose of offending the company name and its workers, implies false accusations about the company or it is malicious in general;
  • Request some of the information on your profile if there is an investigation of illegal activities happening in the working place. In this situation, the info given is allowed to be used only for the sake of investigation but not for sharing elsewhere, manipulating you or punishing in any way;
  • Track some documentation and communications if you are working in specific institutions. For example, in governmental institutions and such;
  • Monitor any equipment provided by the company, such as computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. This includes knowing your passwords and other data needed for logging in;
  • Use employee monitoring software in order to see which websites you access from the working place and how much time you spend on them. This also refers to files you download or upload with the help of company equipment.

If you do not want to give away your personal info via social media, a general tip is changing the settings to private or restricting access to your page. You can make your profile visible only for your friends, or for them and their friends and so on.

This way, an average viewer will not be able to see anything on your page.

What Is an Internet Usage Policy and Is It Efficient?

Many companies make their employees sign an Internet Usage Policy. This policy is designed to make the requirements regarding the Internet and social media usage clear and also to protect both employers and employees. If there are some clauses that you find unacceptable or uncomfortable, you are free to decline the job offer.

Any work requires efficient and top-quality performance from every staff member. The efficiency might decrease considerably if every employee decides to browse social media instead of working. The policy is necessary not because employers want to restrict their personnel but to create a healthy and productive working environment.

In this policy, you should look for the following conditions:

  • Are you allowed to use social media websites during work?
  • How much time can you spend on social media?
  • Are there any restricted websites?
  • What are the consequences of violating the policy and visiting banned websites?

Normally, employers will allow some time on social media to let their workers relax from concentrating on their tasks for the whole day. In addition, there are situations when you need to be on social media to contact your family members or solve some urgent personal issues.

Prohibited websites should also be listed in the policy for you to know that you are not allowed to go there. This often includes adult websites, gambling platforms, etc.

By knowing your rights and obligations, you can maintain a trusty and healthy relationship with your employer.

Article Photo © Thijs Hupkens | Flickr

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