Privacy and Social Networking at Work
Communicating with colleagues, suppliers and customers is a good and useful thing. Workers who can establish and maintain good working relationships with the people around them are a valuable asset to the company they work for. Traditionally, such networking has been done face-to-face or over a telephone. But increasingly, people are reaching out on the Internet, and in particular on social networking sites.
Presenting Yourself ProfessionallyBy all means, use social networking to keep in touch with friends. If you wish to throw a virtual sheep at someone you know, or to tell the world about your collection of jazz on vinyl, or to let people know you’re making a cup of tea, then go ahead! But keep this activity in one social network, with sensible privacy controls, and use a different social network or account for professional contacts.
Some social networking sites are targeted at commercial users. You should consider using one of these for your business networking; not only does this look more professional, but also the whole culture of the site will make it simpler to find people to do business with.
By making this distinction, you need not feel guilty about spending a reasonable amount of time doing online social networking when you are at work, as long as you restrict this to your work site. You can argue the case against having access to this blocked if you are truly getting a business benefit from using it. In contrast, you should only access your personal site at break times or, even better, wait until you get home.
Privacy ControlsIn general, a social network will tend to make all of the content you create public unless you instruct it to do otherwise. This makes sense from the network’s point of view: they want as much content as possible to be indexed by the search engines, and they want other people to be able to find you.
However, if you care about your reputation, you should carefully review the type of information you present on any social networking sites you join. In particular, you may wish to restrict which information is shown to the general public. Investigate the site’s privacy options and make sure that you understand what they have to offer and have set yours up appropriately.
Even if your social networking persona is the model of sober discretion, you may want to think very carefully about the personal information that you include. Do you really want disgruntled customers to be able to find your home phone number or personal email address? Do you want the local cat burglar to see your status update telling him that you’re on holiday in the Maldives for two weeks?