Social media has created some interesting challenges for those of us who choose to use it. In fact, it is hard for many of us to remember what life was like prior to the cellphone or a time when we were unable to keep up with our family and friends via Facebook or Twitter.
However, while you may enjoy telling everyone what you think or what you are cooking for dinner, you should be aware that some companies have terminated employees for their postings on various social networks. Even more surprising, it appears that many companies are requesting potential employees to give them the necessary information to access the interviewing person’s Facebook account! Apparently, these companies are using this information in order to see what prospective employees are saying and what types of pictures they are posting. In turn, they then use this information to determine if they wish to hire this person or not. Twitter, on the other hand, is now under attack by our legal system, which has requested information referencing tweets from the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
This basically means that you can’t have an expectation of anonymously posting a tweet or a Facebook status update. In fact, it appears as if there is no concept of innocence until proven guilty with either of these two separate social media entities.
Now I am not here to argue the validity of the court order or whether or not the folks at Occupy Wall Street are right or wrong. What I will be discussing is the fact that we are entering into a new era where everything we say or do online is coming under public scrutiny. Because of this, we all need to be aware of how our postings — be they words or images — could one day influence our lives.
Online articles and postings began plaguing us several years ago. In fact, when I first started to write here at LockerGnome, I had a very disturbing incident that I will never forget. First, let me note that I work from home, which means that it is very easy to get distracted when writing an article. By this I mean that working from home is different than working in a traditional office where one is rarely interrupted by minor family situations — like having to take the dog for a bathroom break. However, when I was writing the above article (I don’t recall the subject), I inadvertently failed to give credit to a source that I had quoted. Fortunately, the person I failed to credit was courteous enough to contact me personally, but even though I made the necessary correction and apologized for the error, this person was not satisfied with my apology and decided to post my error online. I quickly learned to be extremely careful about what I write and post on the Internet. I have continued to contemplate my writings before posting on Facebook or Twitter.
In regards to the Twitter lawsuit, here are the facts as I know them. A judge on the East Coast had ordered Twitter to provide tweets from the Occupy Wall Street protesters. He had concluded that Twitter did not provide an expectation of privacy since it is available for anyone online to view. In simpler words, he believed a tweet was like someone shouting out a window in a public place and, therefore, had no expectation of privacy. In the end, the court overrode Twitter’s objections and Twitter was forced to relinquish the requested tweets.
No matter what our personal feelings are about the legality of this issue, or whether our tweets should be made public, the fact remains that one court believes that tweets are public. This type of thinking could easily be extended to other social media, such as Facebook, resulting in your most private thoughts being turned over to a court of law or to an employer if demanded. I hope that this doesn’t happen, but unfortunately this is a possibility.
The bottom line is this: Watch what you post on any public forum, since what you say and the pictures you post could one day be used against you in a court of law.
CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Scott Beale