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.

On Thursday, April 18th, the Westchester/Southern Connecticut Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel (known as “WESFACCA”) holds an event that you’re not going to want to miss.

Entitled “KEEP IT SECRET. KEEP IT SAFE. Privacy Developments, Requirements and Practical Applications for Corporate Legal Counsel”, the day-long program in Darien, Connecticut, will focus on things employers must know about the developments in privacy law, including social media. 

Details on the program are available here. 

I’ll be speaking in the session before lunch on “Privacy in the Workplace.”  In our hour-long session, we will cover a variety of topics including:

  • BYOD (bring your own device);
  • Privacy considerations when employees use their own devices for work purposes;
  • Monitoring of employee activity inside & outside the company;
  • Social networks – the ownership debate between personal and company information;
  • Compensation laws and Internet activity outside the company;
  • Protecting the privacy of employees’ own data;

I’ll have some additional thoughts in a post this week about the topic, but if you haven’t signed up already, it’s not too late.

I had the opportunity to speak today at Wesfacca’s Day of Social Media program.  If you’re looking for great information as an in house counsel, I would strongly recommend ordering the CLE materials.

There were a number of issues brought up that were discussed but there were two that I haven’t seen addressed much elsewhere.

First, there are companies that are rolling out internal social network programs that essentially create a Facebook for just company employees on a closed network.  Sounds good, right? But employers need to understand that these networks may still be subject to the NLRA. So, if you prohibit employees from talking about salaries on that site, you may start running afoul of labor laws.

Similarly, suppose your company monitors your Company’s name across a variety of social media sites.  What happens when you discover not only customers but employees using your name? Numerous panelists at companies suggested to overreacting.  It may be a violation, but what is the appropriate remedy. Training employees is key.  And if no one else really saw it, what’s the real harm?

The takeaway? Social media is rapidly developing. Policies, a strategy and training remain a company’s best approach to the issue.    And don’t forget that the usual laws apply.

850 million people on Facebook can’t be wrong, can they?

A large group of in-house counsel at major Connecticut and New York companies don’t think so.  They understand that social media is not going away and that there are lots of advantages (and risks) to using social media.

WESFACCA (the Westchester and Southern Fairfield county chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel) has planned an entire day of education programs all designed to help companies tackle the issues they face when it comes to social media.  That list is not insignificant. 

The topics for the program include:

  • Social Media & Intellectual Property
  • Social Media in the Workplace
  • Managing Compliance Risks: Privacy, Consumer Protection and Social Media
  • Balancing The Issues: Social Media for the In-House Generalist
  • Social Media and Litigation

And did I mention that the keynote speaker is FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlausen (who was just confirmed yesterday)?

I’m happy to be speaking at the event and my thanks to them for the invite; it should be terrific. 

It is set for May 18, 2012 from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Woodway Country Club, in Darien. 

Registration for members is just $75 (!) and $105 for non-members.  A bargain for a full day of CLE.  You can register and find full details here.