Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to a large group at the Connecticut Community Providers Association in Rocky Hill about social media and compliance issues.

The Connecticut Community Providers Association represents organizations that provide services and supports for children and adults with disabilities and significant challenges including people with substance use disorders, mental illness, developmental and physical disabilities.

It was a very energetic crowd and from the questions that were asked, it is clear that social media has made it to the mainstream.  No longer can companies believe that the firewalls that they have on the workplace computers will keep them "protected" from social media.

Why? In part, due to the influx of smart phones (iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys etc.).  Now, individuals can access Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare from their phones completely circumventing the work.

The problem is compounded in part because some of these smaller organizations allow (and may encourage) people to buy their own smart phones to use for work-related calls.  This saves the company money, but it also complicates matters because employers feel that they cannot "regulate" someone’s personal phone.

There are different ways to tackle this and companies seeking to update their "Acceptable Use" or "Electronic Communications" policies should seek some additional legal guidance. 

One way to address the issue may be that, in exchange for the privilege of allowing an employee to access work computers through their personal smart phone, the employee has to give the company access to the phone as well and be subject to workplace rules.  This can be done through a written consent or notice.

Another issues that may arise is in the course of a lawsuit. Is the content of that personal smart phone subject to discovery rules? And if so, how is the company supposed to get the data?

Using personal smart phones for work may be a cheaper, more efficient way to run the organization, but without thinking through all of the implications and developing a strategy for usage, it may create more headaches for a company in the long-term.