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.