If it seems that there are more social media apps out there than ever before, you’re not going crazy.  No longer do employers just have to worry about Facebook. Rather, a whole host of sites has popped up leading to new headaches and challenges for employers.

I’ve talked about this before, but Law360 published a pretty thorough article last night in which I’m quoted regarding “What Employers Need To Know About the Latest Social Media”.

In it, I talk about the practical consequences that Facebook’s purchase of WhatApp (for $19 billion) will have on communications in and around the workplace.

With Facebook’s recent $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp, a cross-platform instant messaging subscription service for smartphones, it’s safe to say that messaging platforms are on the rise. These messaging services provide their users with quick and convenient ways to share information, which means employees may be eschewing more established means of corporate communication like email in favor of messaging sites, especially when they are using mobile phones.

“For employers, this means that information is traveling quickly outside of typical corporate controls,” Daniel Schwartz of Shipman & Goodwin LLP said.

“It’s important to understand when your information is not going through normal channels if you have a document retention policy or regulatory concerns like in the financial or health care industries, to make sure that your secure information is not being leaked through the faucet that is instant messaging apps,” he said.

There’s lots more good stuff in the piece including a tip from Delaware Employment Law Blog’s Molly DiBianca about apps like Secret too.  Never heard of them? You should because confidential information and rumors are being spread.

Check out the rest of the article for additional tips, including this quote from Adam Forman, a great labor lawyer out at Miller Canfield as well.

“Employers need to understand that the days of simply putting up a firewall at work and having that protect you are over,” said Adam S. Forman of Miller Canfield Paddock & Stone PLC. “You need to survey what’s out there and figure out where you’re vulnerable. You need to understand the scope of today’s issues — college kids are not on Facebook anymore, and these are your employees.”

Interested in social media for business but wondering how to deal with a policy to manage it?

Central Connecticut State University’s Institute for Technology & Business Development is sponsoring an executive breakfast series seminar on October 3, 2013 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. on Social Media Policy.

I will be among the panel of speakers discussing the subject.  Along with me, will be:

  • Jessica Rich, Director of Operations and Employee Services at The Walker Group;
  • Suzi Craig, Director of Opportunity & Engagement at Fathom;
  • Rob McGuiness, Manager of E-Communications at Pratt & Whitney

In this presentation, we will be covering both the legal aspects of social media policy but also best practices for you and your company to follow.

The executive breakfast program is just $25 and open to the public.  My thanks to CCSU for the invite and TD Bank for its sponsorship of this event.

It will be held at the ITBD headquarters at 185 Main Street, New Britain, CT.  You can RSVP here to attend.  Hope to see you all there.

For additonal background on social media policy, see some of my recent social media policy posts here and here.

There is a certain bit of irony about recording an interview at work that appears on YouTube about, well, employees posting videos from work.

But if you can look past the irony, you might learn a few things.

In my interview with LXBN this week, we talked about how we got to this point with photos and videos in the workplace and why this is seemingly the NLRB’s “Next Big Thing”.

I talked about it in a prior post here.

My thanks to LXBN for the opportunity to appear. Always fun.

Besides, if you want something actually ironic, you should probably follow this meme.

Kodachrome

You give us those nice bright colors

You give us the greens of summers

Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah!

I got a Nikon camera

I love to take a photograph

So Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

Paul Simon, “Kodachrome”

A few months back, I was one of the first to highlight the perils of a new video sharing service, Vine, in the workplace.  And then a month ago, I predicted that the NLRB was likely to jump in on the issue of photo and video sharing.

Little did we all know how soon that time would come.

As Jon Hyman, of the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, highlighted:

It appears that Dan’s prediction was right on the money. Last week, the NLRB’s Office of General Counsel published an Advice Memorandum [pdf] (dated March 21, 2012, but, for reasons unknown, which sat unpublished for 16 months).

Among other issues, the memo took up the following prohibition in a supermarket chain’s social media policy:

Do not use any … photographs or video of the Company’s premises, processes, operations, or products, which includes confidential information owned by the Company, unless you have received the Company’s prior written approval.

According to the NLRB Office of G.C., that policy is, on its face, an overly restrictive ban on employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity.

As so, the idea that an employer can “take away” the employees’ photographs and videos — taken digitally, even on a Nikon camera — is now up for dispute.  This isn’t the last word on the issue so I would expect to see more news on this front in the not too distant future.

Until then, enjoy the greens of summer and this Paul Simon song.

 

At the Connecticut Bar Association’s Annual Meeting, NLRB Boston Regional Director Jonathan Kreisberg gave a thorough update on the agenda of the federal agency.

While most of the discussion focused on the latest pronouncements of social media, during my presentation on Vine and other photo/video social media sites, he also mentioned something that hasn’t often been discussed as well: employee use of smartphones to take pictures or videos in the workplace.

Indeed, Kreisberg said that he believed that there were a couple of cases winding their way through the agency now on whether such use was permissible or whether employers could restrict such use.  He said he would not be surprised if the Board upheld most employee use of videos or photos as a protected concerted activity or other protected action.

With Vine and now Instagram as very popular photo and video sharing apps on smartphones, the NLRB’s position could have a significant influence on employer’s attempts to rein such conduct in.

Will this be the next frontier for the agency? Stay tuned.

As I highlighted last month, Vine — a new video-sharing app — is quickly infiltrating the workplace.  Since my original post, I’ve been keeping tabs on what people are doing on it.

And it isn’t pretty.  Videos seem to be increasing with people using hashtags like “#work” or “#worksucks” daily.  They are also using hashtags like “#fml”; if you’re not familiar with the shorthand, the Urban Dictionary has the details.  Hint: It doesn’t mean Fix My Lighthouse anymore.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog wrote about it in a post today (welcome WSJ readers!). 

But I remain amazed at the lack of discretion some employees have. Take this employee who smokes weed IN HIS COMPANY UNIFORM (Vine app required).  Insert your “hashtag” joke here.  (Actually, search for “#tokedaily” or “#wakeandbake” on Vine — you’ll be shocked.)

Or this employee who posts from a popular fast-food restaurant using the hashtags “#hatework” and “#bored”.

Or this employee who seems to work at a popular clothing store and used the hashtag “#hatework”…along with the name of her employer. 

A firewall isn’t going to stop employees from doing this anymore. Instead, some policies and guidelines, and some training is your first line of defense.  

Those who are also quick to attack Vine (much like people derided Facebook) are shooting the messenger. Employees will use whatever seems easy to them; Vine is just the latest example.  It’s up to employers to provide the guidance to employees about what is appropriate. 

Until then, Vine will remain the newest front-line in the ever-increasing use of smartphones in the workplace.

As I said in an earlier post, I’ll be speaking about Social Media and the Workplace, as part of WESFACCA’s “Day of Privacy” presentation later this week. 

One of items I hope to touch on is the fact that with the proliferation of apps and social media, it is growing increasingly difficult for employers to catch up.  (Which is a shame, because those apps can prove invaluable during tragedies, like the Boston Marathon explosions).  Employers that are just catching on to Facebook, for example, are well behind the curve.

Employees, while still using Facebook, are using lots of other sites now to share information. In fact, the number one free app in the Apple App Store now is Vine.

Never heard of it? You will soon.  Its a product of Twitter and a new social networking site where people can share looping six second videos.

Here’s the workplace angle though; just like Facebook, people are using Vine to take videos of their workplace.  Some even tag their videos with the hashtag “#work”.  (Don’t know what a hashtag is? Here’s your remedial homework.) 

No big deal? Well, what if you’re employees took videos of your confidential business plans and put them on Vine? Oh wait, someone already did.

What if an employee posted a self-portrait video driving heavy machinery at the airport? Um, someone did that too.   

Then, there is this guy who really doesn’t want to work and shows videos from the back office.

And let’s not forget that this employee has enough time to read Harry Potter and listen to Pandora while showing an empty workplace.

All these videos were found doing a search of the hashtag “#work” on Vine; I found them in about 5 minutes.

Not enough? Do a search for “#hatework” and you’ll find this Dunkin’ Donuts employee. Or the less classy,  “#f**kwork” (removing, of course, the asterisks), and you’ll find this Tops employee who is kind enough to use his real name and employee badge to let us know what he really thinks of the workplace.

But wait! There’s more. There’s this employee of the Woodfield Mall who posts a video with the comment “Kill Me. #worksucks”. Or this employee of Tractor Supply Company who has a 21st birthday coming up and again posts with the hashtag “#worksucks”.  Or the employee of Heritage Community in Michigan who flashes her badge while getting dressed work for as a CNA.

Shall I go on?

What can be done? We’ll discuss some strategies at Thursday’s presentation. But understanding what is out there is the first thing employers can do to understand the scope of the issue.   All employees need is a smartphone and an app, and the damage is done.  (My unscientific survey shows that restaurants and retail establishments are particularly vulnerable to such posts on Vine.)

As an employer, you’ll need a lot more than a firewall now to stop your information from getting distributed or prevent your company’s reputation from being trashed quickly by your own employees.  You need a strategy and an approach.

Because common sense doesn’t seem to grow on trees, or rather, vines, anymore.