Electronic Privacy at the Office

Miami's Community Newspapers

I was talking to a client a couple weeks ago who was looking for a new employee.  Yeah, I know what you’re saying, “Conterio, I know you’re making this up, NOBODY has been hiring new employees for months!”  I know, I know, but seriously they really did have a job opening.

And they already filled it, so please don’t call me!  Anyway, my client was telling me about an applicant who had seemed like they might not be bad for the job, until he went and did a little searching in the internet.  Seems our job-seeker had a Facebook page that was not private.  It also seems our job seeker had written a few things and posted a few pictures that didn’t exactly enhance their resume, if you catch my drift.  Oops.

The moral to that little story obviously is, make sure your Facebook, and other social web pages are private, or better still, don’t post foolish things on line at all, things that might make a potential, or even current-employer reassess your value as an employee.

There is great concern about privacy in the Internet age, and rightly so.  But sometimes the damage in this regard can be self-inflicted.  If you ever participate in on-line forums or chat rooms, or even on email lists where you exchange a string of messages among a group of people, you have no control of what happens to the things you write, and where they might wind up.  You might think you have some expectation of privacy, but the reality is, once something is out there, there’s no getting it back.  Many people are shocked to discover this is also true at work.  But unless you work for yourself, you have very little legal or reasonable expectation of privacy.  The computer workstation you work at, your email account, possibly even your cell phone are all provided by your employer.  They pay the bills, it is their property you are using, and what’s more, they have a certain degree of liability for what you use them for, so they not only have the right to monitor your use of these tools, in many regards they have a responsibility to do so.  The best way to be clear about what you should and should not be doing with your company phone, computer or email account is to make sure you have read the policy manual your employer provides you with, in particular the Acceptable Use policy.  This will outline your responsibilities when using your employer’s equipment.  If your company or organization does not have a policy manual or an Acceptable Use policy, you might want to point this out to them.  Politely of course!

At the end of the day, the best way to prevent your words (or pictures!) from making it on to the Internet is to think very carefully before you post them there.  Consider that literally anybody will be able to see them.  If you can imagine a worst possible scenario with someone seeing what you are about to send or post online who you REALLY don’t want seeing it, perhaps you should think twice about writing it in the first place.

Handy Internet Tip!

A friend of mine turned me on to this, it’s a web browser tool called Readability from an outfit called ARC90.  If you are trying to read an article or story online, Readability will eliminate the clutter on the page, and allow you to customize the size and layout of the text, making it much easier and more comfortable to read.  You can check it out for yourself at: http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/

If you have any ideas, tips or suggestions, you think are really great, send them to me at info@giatech.net .

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