Confidentiality, Privacy and Social Media in the Workplace

Privacy Week was in May so I thought I would talk about privacy and confidentiality in the workplace and how social media has placed these issues squarely in front of us.

Whether you are a small or large business you must be aware of your requirements under the Privacy Act 1993.  This Act has 12 Principles which relate to what information is gathered, how it is gathered, keeping it secure, ensuring it is correct and only using it for the purpose it was gathered.

So, if someone rings you and asks for a staff member’s address as they want to send them flowers as a thank you, don’t give it out.  That person just may be the ex your staff member is trying to protect themselves and their family from.

A privacy clause within an employment agreement restricts a staff member from breaching the privacy of other staff, customers or clients and allows the organisation to take action through the disciplinary process should it be warranted.

A confidentiality clause within an employment agreement restricts a staff member from releasing and using information gathered at work, about the business or its operation, its staff, its customers or its clients.  It too allows an organisation to take action through the disciplinary process.

Now to that friend or foe, social media.  Both the privacy and confidentiality clauses don’t necessarily allow an organisation to take a staff member to task over what they share on image sharing sites, forums, chat rooms, electronic newsletters, wikis, blogs, microblogs, social and business networking sites or any other sites and services where users are able to share information with others.

Albeit an organisation has limited power to stop what others say they certainly can put in place restrictions on their own staff.  A social media clause in an employment agreement and a policy to support this provides guidance about the use of social media and can make it clear to staff what the repercussions are should they breach it.

Advertising and networking through social media can be incredibly successful for many businesses and with some clear guidelines to staff an organisation can have some control of its use and information that is released.