Business Ethics Question: Should Company’s track employees Social Media activity?

August 9, 2011

BUSINESS ETHICS 101 – Should an employer attempt to protect his/her company’s assets and/or reputation by monitoring their employees social networking practices?

With so much riding on corporate ethics, should an entrepreneur try to protect his or her company’s reputation from employees’ loose, careless and sometimes dangerous social networking practices?

The following news release from Kansas State University asks some challenging questions:

Monday, Aug. 1, 2011

GAME CHANGER: BUSINESS ETHICS EXPERT WEIGHS IN ON MONITORING ONLINE IDENTITY OF PROSPECTIVE, CURRENT EMPLOYEES

MANHATTAN — Should businesses monitor the social media activities of their employees? A Kansas State University business ethics expert says the practice can be a double-edge sword.

Such monitoring is available through companies like Social Intelligence, which provides businesses with archived data from social media sites for use in preventing online damage to their reputations. But the data also can be used to screen potential employees and to monitor the social media activities of current employees.

“I understand the need of a business to protect its reputation,” said Diane Swanson, professor of management and chair of a business ethics education initiative. “But in terms of employees’ rights, the practice coexists uneasily with the expectation of personal privacy.”

Use of Social Intelligence could create considerable changes in employee communication, Swanson said. Potentially, the practice could create a climate of fear and distrust. These effects could be detrimental to morale and hurt productivity.

To prevent such a situation, Swanson recommends that companies craft policies and provide expectations of employee’s online conduct. This would shift the emphasis from monitoring to creating shared understanding between employers and employees. Further steps would also be necessary.

“A company should provide full disclosure of its monitoring practices and the consequences employees would face if they violated stated policy and hurt the business’ reputation,” Swanson said.

Without such full disclosure, an individual employee would be operating without the benefit of knowing important rules of conduct. This could be construed as unfair, especially given the relative power of large organizations compared to that of lone individuals, Swanson said.

The approach is also necessary because of the lack of laws regarding companies like Social Intelligence. Data collected by Social Intelligence follows the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It also does not include basic demographic information. But the monitoring and screening can provide any message or tweet deemed worthy of mention. The approach could prove negative for businesses if valued employees are ousted or alienated in the process, Swanson said.

“If a business is worried about this, the best way to handle it proactively is for the expectations to be laid down when employees are hired,” Swanson said. “This should be followed by training sessions and discussions related to performance evaluations. That way, management can strive to head off problems and be part of the solution instead of being viewed as heavy-handed.”

Swanson suggests the loss of personal privacy in social media activities is emblematic of larger societal trends.

“We are getting used to what could be considered violations of our privacy from what has been happening with government practices and now on the corporate side,” Swanson said. “Such practices cause tension in a society where citizens traditionally value individualism and look to the law to protect the expectation of privacy.”

Because online surveillance appears to be proliferating, Swanson believes that ultimately public policy and the courts will establish more definitive guidelines.

“The problem is that technology outpaces the ability of the law and public policy to keep up,” she said.

Meanwhile caution should be exercised.

“The more people are aware of this practice, the more they will be empowered to make smart decisions,” Swanson said.

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?  Monitor Social Media activity is ethical or unethical?

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Ethics in Social Media – Why the Secret Service had to Apologize for a Twitter feed…Wonder how Fox feels about this?

May 23, 2011

Every choice has a consequence!  I open all my ethics presentations with that statement…yet, when it comes to the Secret Service – well I suspect the consequence is “secret”!

A CNN report stated the following:

The Secret Service is apologizing Wednesday after an employee’s personal dislike for Fox News landed in an official tweet.

The message, posted Wednesday on the @SecretService Twitter account read, “Had to monitor Fox for a story. Can’t. Deal. With. The. Blathering.”

According to the agency, the tweet was “immediately removed” and an “internal follow-up” is underway.

“An employee with access to the Secret Service’s Twitter account, who mistakenly believed they were on their personal account, posted an unapproved and inappropriate tweet,” read a statement from the U.S. Secret Service. “We apologize for this mistake, and the user no longer has access to our official account. Policies and practices which would have prevented this were not followed and will be reinforced for all account users.”

The Secret Service newly joined Twitter with its first official tweet from @SecretService on May 9, 2011.

Wonder how the folks at the Secret Service felt about their gaff?  Wonder if the person who posted this on Twitter is still employed with the Secret Service…oh…it’s secret!

This is a perfect example of how important it is to monitor your postings before you hit ENTER!  And, I have to wonder if I publish this…will I now be on the Secret Service’s radar?  Naw…I’m not that significant…

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME…


Social Media addition Empireavenue – Value or Frivilous?

May 23, 2011

A valued friend of mine – Randy Gage – posted something the other day that caught my attention.  He stated:

I started hearing about EmpireAvenue.com from some savvy social media superstars and early adopters. I think it has the possibility to be the next really BIG thing in the space. Can’t really tell you why; it’s just a hunch I have.

The idea behind Empire Avenue is you “invest” in people who participate in sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — and their stock rises or falls, based on their proficiency in social media. It’s kind of Monopoly meets social media, RISK meets the New York Stock Exchange. I believe all speakers and authors should get on the site and reserve their name. It has some fascinating social media metrics and really shows you how you can increase your reach and influence. Since I joined I have seen quite a spike of new site traffic, blog readers and followers on all my social media accounts.

I tried it and so far – honestly – I’m still figuring it out.  But, that said, I’ve had fun (probably more than I have on LinkedIn for example) and even if it’s mindless, it beats Zynga games.  At least here there is a real connection between people where true communication can take place.  {EAV_BLOG_VER:12dc3b7627e3ada1}

Perhaps if you’re interested…you can check it out and see if it’s worth you time.  Think I’m switching from Zynga to Empire Avenue.  Here’s a link to my account if you’d like to check out what Randy is talking about.  http://empireavenue.com/?t=thhv843

If you are an EmpireAvenue member let me know what you think.  If not and you join…share your thoughts here.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME.


Prospective employers checking you out on Facebook not ethical? Get over it.

November 8, 2009

Is it ethical for a company to use what you freely post on a social networking site as part of their decision making process?

I posed that question the other day to a group of students at Queen’s Business School in Kingston, Ontario.  The answers I got were interesting; they generally saw sites like Facebook as just that: a social networking tool. And they didn’t generally connect that a prospective employer has an ethical right to base their hiring decision on what a candidate posts online in their off hours.

But here’s the thing: Regardless of the ethical questions at play, what you post online will likely be found, in one form or another, by prospective employers. A recent study found that 45 percent of employers surveyed use social networks to screen job candidates.

So, here’s a question for all business students: At a time when unemployment is at a 26-year high, and competition for jobs is fiercer than ever, what are you currently doing with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to expand, find, or grow your career? Are you taking advantage of what’s free in a way that allows you to take those steps?


Social Networking, Social Media, Social Web and Ethics – Are They Compatable? Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher Comments!

January 29, 2009

For a 51 year old former Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing, current business ethics speaker and fraud prevention consultant, I am finding web 2.0 and/or social media (or whatever title you give it) to be a vast open space for opportunity and/or disaster. And for those of us who are growing into this new frontier the pitfalls can be dramatic and costly.

One year ago I had no clue what web 2.0 was or meant. Frankly neither did most of my counterparts. Those of us in the Baby Boom generation just didn’t get it. As far as we were concerned sites like MySpace and Facebook were for kids. And, frankly, we didn’t have a clue what the fascination was all about. Just really seemed like a colossal waste of time. Either the “young” folks were texting – seemed like speed dial and a call was quicker – or they were writing in some unknown code that was designed to keep those of us with budding grey hair confused. And confused we were.

Then, for reasons I still don’t fathom, I began – like many others of my generation – to find some attraction to just what the fuss was all about. Viola…Baby Boomers connect and the world for us changes.

AMAZING FACTS:

According to site analytics reported on in compete.com for December 2008 the following amazing statistics are available:istock_000007298729small

Number of Unique Visitors:

Facebook 59,675,502

MySpace 59,544,152

LinkedIn 9,349,996

In all three cased the number of people visiting these sites increased for the month of December 2008 and increased for the year for both Facebook and LinkedIn.

IMPACT FOR ADULT SOCIAL MEDIA CONNECTIONS:

While the number of uses for MySpace (mostly high school and college aged users) has remained flat, the more adult related sites has skyrocketed. The number of unique visitors to LinkedIn over 2008 has increased 153.9% and unique visitors to Facebook has increased 85.7%. While there may be those who disagree, I submit that the great majority of the increased visitorship to these sites is coming from adult users that are beginning to learn how to tap into the value of social media connections.

The growth is incredible as I am seeing daily (yes daily) the number of people in the Baby Boom group who are beginning to figure out that they will be left behind if they don’t join the social media revolution. The message that one might share is instantaneous and the access to data is vast. The power for branding, marketing and media messaging is limited only by the narrowness of ones mind.

INTERCONNECTED – FOR BETTER OR WORSE:

First, let me say, you do have control over when and how you use these tools. That said, the reality is you are interconnected. For example I am working with a social media site called twitter. Now for those who twitter it makes perfect sense (I guess). For me, well…I’m trying to figure it out. But one thing I do know is that since my twitter postings are linked to my facebook account, every time I make a post to twitter my facebook is updated.

That interconnection can be a great benefit. But, it has to be one that is managed. As a baby boomer and professional speaker and consultant I quickly got the value of these social media site from a marketing and branding perspective. And, I promise for those who really get it, I’m no where close to truly maximizing the value that can be gained there.

Here’s an example of the power of social media at work. As I began writing this blog I posted a comment on twitter (which like Facebook and LinkedIn is growing exponentially). I stated that I was writing this article and would be open to suggestions. The request was posted on twitter – which linked to my facebook page. Just a moment ago I looked on my facebook page and has two responses, both of which were very helpful.

Here are their comments with some minor edits:

A professor from Texas writes: “Who owns my data?” Guess what – Facebook owns what you put on your profile. Not you. Take your page down? Doesn’t matter, they still have, and own, that information.

A professional speaker from Florida writes: I am amzaed how social media has taken off the way it has…. I do not like it when people think it is the perfect place to push their MLM or any other products or services.

Don’t get me wrong I think that MLMs are a great business to get into. But please first read the secret behind “Permission Marketing” as taught by Seth Godin. If you use this (read More Strategy )it does work. I know I have people who write me and call me and I don’t really know them but they feel like I am there best friend. This is all done by “Permission Marketing” not by pushing yourself upon your friends list.

Also becareful what you post on someone’s “Wall” where everyone can read it. I will sometimes post something on their Wall and then follow-up with a direct private message to further explain the details or the private information. There are somethings you don’t want everyone to know without the permission of the other parties involved.

ETHICS, CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES:

Every choice has a consequence. Every time you call someone or write a note, you make a choice that has a consequence. Perhaps your call or note is received with joy and the consequence is deemed positive. Likewise, many in turbulent economic times are receiving calls or notes that result in the loss of jobs and – the consequence is much different.

The same applies to every entry or contact in a social media environment. I, for example, write about ethics and fraud – white collar crime mostly. I am aware that with the touch of the keyboard, I publish data that some find helpful and refreshing and others find offensive. Believe me I have heard from those who do find my work distasteful. In any event, I understand that the way we interact on the web is much different and substantially more powerful than what we have previously been accustomed.

So here are some questions (feel free to comment below – who knows where the dialogue will take us):

  • If you use social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for business promotion, are you concerned more about your privacy or the promotion of your business?
  • If you had to choose between LinkedIn or Facebook – which site would you select and what motivates that selection?
  • If you use Facebook, do you feel that it is ethical to look at the friends of your friends and request a connection to them?
  • Would you rather expand your network of “friend” or “connections” or maintain your privacy?
  • How do you feel social media networking is different than networking – say through a chamber of commerce event?

As times passes, like with anything, we will all learn and grow. Meanwhile, the issues of what, how and where to use social media and what is fondly called web 2.0 are unfolding.

One last comment before this entry is closed out… As I speak often to university students I find that they too have an amazement at this whole social media issue. This comment just came through on my facebook page. It is accurate and demonstrates just how we need to think about the balance between social, marketing and privacy. Here’s the comment:

Fascinating. I find the balance of being public and yet wanting privacy control a tight balance. Companies are using FB as an HR research/background tool.

Your comments are welcome…