The lure of social media is a strong one nowadays, and it has firmly planted itself in the middle of our everyday lives. From online resumes and networking (LinkedIn) to sharing favorite photos (Pinterest); from connecting with friends (Facebook) to adding your ‘two cents’ (Twitter) – the Internet has crept into our personal space in a big way.
If you have yet to give pause as to how information is shared across the cyberspace, perhaps you should. It’s beginning to cause some problems which can affect your business, as well as those you have employed.
It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Internet
Though its origin dates back to the early 1960’s, the Internet became quite the ‘horse of a different colour’ in the late 1980’s. The year 1989 saw the World Wide Web – brain-child of British computer scientist Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee – spread the concept of web pages, browsing and hyperlinking around the globe at lightning speed. And, it hasn’t looked back since.
Little did we know that our privacy, once respectably policed by virus and malware detection software, was hovering at the edge of a giant abyss. Our human desire for connection and community has lamentably spawned an entire industry of defamers and Internet hackers. Incredible as it may seem, you can actually search for and find them ‘for hire’ on the web.
Social Sites Are Hurting Your Business
As an employer, there are a couple of typical reasons that personal online details of your workers may come across your desk. First, upon their initial consideration for employment; and second, in how their social media habits interact with the business of your firm.
- Employment: Be aware that vetting a candidate by browsing their social media sites may put you at risk of recruitment bias. Your company must respect and protect its employees’ personal data, and conveniently the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides a guide for employers ‘to help you stay on the right side of the law.’
- Data Risk: The masterminds of targeted crimes are avid Internet users – just like everyone else – and quite capable of searching the web for a firm’s employees; while further scouring for their personal details on social media sites. Obviously, this could be a recipe for disaster. That said, keep in mind that oftentimes a company can be more at risk from the inside – from unwittingly risky behavior by an employee – than from outside hackers.
How Your Business Can Take Control
Could it be time for employers to draw the proverbial line in the sand, and take back our privacy by controlling our company workers’ social outreach? Is that even possible? You may think that writing a ban of all social media into the employee handbook will do the trick. That’s highly unlikely. Someone is always going to draw outside of the lines.
So, what can you do, and how much power can you exert? Here’s a good start on making a difference and bringing this issue down to a manageable level:
Educate, Educate, Educate – By addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ and openly discussing the subject with your workers, it allows honesty and concern to prevail. Most people aren’t fully aware of how damaging shared personal details on social media can be to an employer, much less to their own reputations and careers. Be sure to advise employees that keeping their job information separate from social media accounts will reduce potential ripple effects.
Partner With Your Employees – Making it a ‘community’ issue will benefit the company, and increase staff loyalty. Remind workers that ‘broadcasting’ a comment on social media is far different than speaking to a close friend. It might not only be taken out of context, but send a mere moment of levity viral – which may in turn cause unintended harm to the reputation of a person or business.
Company Policies And Systems – Be clear that any defamation of the company or bullying of its employees would constitute gross misconduct. Consult with a corporate law expert to create a steadfast inappropriate conduct policy for your organisation. As to systems, keep everything updated; your antivirus protection, operating systems, software and hardware. Align yourself with a trusted IT technician, who can run objective audits on your site and equipment; making valuable suggestions based upon your needs and number of staff.
Passwords, Passwords, Passwords – It has to be said. Creating a password from information you’ve posted on your social media accounts is ridiculously unsafe. It’s true, we tend to lean toward passwords that are easy for us to remember. That would be fine, in a perfect world. Unfortunately, our inclination to share everything with blinders on reveals too many facts we formerly only committed to memory.
Have a listen to Greg Foot, of Brit Lab, while he explains what might just transform your password from ‘hackable’ to secure:
If you have a tendency to forget your passwords, an address book (not on your computer) works, but don’t remove it from your home. If you must keep the passwords easily accessible, you can opt to use an ‘identity safe’ through established online security companies. Always look for the SSL ‘padlock’ icon in front of any URL site address, prior to entering any private data.