What Can an Employer Really Do to Monitor You Online?
The rise of social media has lifted a lot of internet users out from behind screen names, and therefore anonymity. As a result what we do online directly affects our own public image as well as that of people who are associated with us, most importantly our employers. As businesses are beginning to realize that most of their employees are among the 84% of U.S. adults active on the internet and 56% of U.S. adults on social media networks, your employer is working to monitor you online in order to protect their corporate reputations.

So, what can an employer really do to monitor you online, and what’s considered corporate overreach?

1. Your Employer Can and Will Google You

Everywhere in the US it’s perfectly legal for your prospective or current employer to do a google search on you to find out any information about you that’s accessible to everyone online. That means if you don’t have your privacy settings ramped up on your social media accounts, your employer has the right to read through everything that’s visible and use that information to inform their decisions about you.
To avoid getting into trouble you’ll need to work hard to manage the information that is available about you online. Make sure that the privacy settings on all your social media accounts restrict public access.

2. What You Say On The Internet is Not Private

Turning up your privacy settings isn’t always enough when you’re using social media to interact with 3rd party sites. Commenting on news articles, blogs, or other websites through a social media account doesn’t extend the protection of your social media settings to those sites.
Furthermore, being a terrible person on the internet is finally beginning to have repercussions in the real world despite the sluggish legal response. Sites like this are built around identifying and outing people who behave reprehensibly online, and are entirely legal since they access information that’s either publicly available or freely given to them. Luckily this is a risk that can be very easily addressed by simply not saying things on the internet that you wouldn’t say in front of other people.

3. Do Your Research Before Handing Over Account Information

More and more businesses are demanding social media access information from their employees. Some states are passing laws to limit this invasive behavior, but many don’t have specific laws to prohibit companies from forcing or otherwise coercing their employees to give them their login information. It’s important to look up and understand the legal protections that your state offers, and to insist on your rights when appropriate.
For example, in Washington it’s illegal to coerce prospective or current employees to give away their login information. It’s important to understand that this means that if someone in any way implies that your failure to comply could result in any discrimination, then the employer already broke the law.
Also keep in mind that your employer can’t force you to disclose that you even have specific social media accounts, which will work as long as your privacy settings are properly tuned.

4. Internet Usage Monitoring At Work

When you’re using a work computer, your employer is entitled to install whatever they want on that computer, including keyloggers and internet usage monitoring software. That means that whatever you do on your work computer could be recorded for your employer. All states have some laws regarding eavesdropping, but few directly address employee monitoring, and many don’t require your employer to inform you about their practices.
These programs can circumvent a lot of privacy laws because you’re essentially giving your employer the information that you input into their computer. For this reason it’s better simply not to log in or use any of your online social media networks on work devices.

Thoughts? We would love to hear in the comments below!

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