The Ten Commandments of Drafting a Social Networking Policy
You've probably heard this "fact": if Facebook was a country, it would be the fourth largest country in the world! Web 2.0 has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, including the workplace. As a result, most lawsuits in which employers become mired are fraught with electronic data issues. To guard against a wide range of legal claims, as well as reap the benefits of a global marketplace, many employers are instituting social networking policies. But, as with any policy, a social networking policy must be carefully drafted to meet your business needs. With that, I introduce to you the 10 Commandments of drafting a social networking policy:
While your search results will pull up dozens of fine looking policies, you won't know who wrote them, the legal jurisdiction from which they hale, or the business interests the policy seeks to promote. Many times, a bad policy is worse than no policy at all.
If you decide that a social networking policy is appropriate for your business (and it may not be), the combined cooperation of your IT department, human resources, legal, and company decision-makers is necessary to formulate an effective policy.
Employee use of social networking media can have wide-ranging legal ramifications for employers. Possible claims include: harassment, discrimination, defamation, invasion of privacy, and a variety of statutory violations.
Notify employees that they have no expectation of privacy in their use of company technology, that their activities should be work related only, and that their communications may be accessed at any time.
The policy should require disclaimers be used indicating that the opinions stated therein are those of the employee and not the employer.
Require employees to act respectfully in their social networking/blogging activities. Provide guidance on what is and what is not appropriate behavior.
The policy should prohibit disclosure of confidential information, the use of legally-protected/copyrighted information, and the dissemination of personal information of co-workers.
Inform your employees that their social networking activities on the job are subject to all company policies and explain the consequences of violating your social networking policy.
Distribute the policy. Have your employees sign off on their receipt and understanding of the policy. Provide training on the policy.
You MUST ensure that your litigation hold policy incorporates procedures and methodologies to capture and preserve social networking data in the event of litigation.