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What Goes On Facebook, Stays in Facebook. Forever.

by Debra Logan  |  May 7, 2009  |  2 Comments

While skimming through the very excellent Unfiltered Orange (http://orangelt.us/about/news-events/unfiltered-orange/) for the latest e-Discovery news, I came across yet another post talking about the dangers of Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites (http://www.mediacastermagazine.com/issues/ISArticle.asp?id=99515&issue=05012009). 

It pointed out the privacy pitfalls of social networking for individuals and companies, and used a couple of examples of people who had posted stuff they really wished they hadn’t, such as posting a picture of themselves at a party (in full fairy regalia no less) after they had called in sick.  That is, let us say, somewhat careless and a lot naive. 

There will be no prizes for guessing the ages of the individuals who do this kind of thing, one need only look at the demographics of the Facebook population.  Youth is not the sole province of stupidity, stupidity has major branches in all ages, nations, races and creeds.  Perhaps what I am talking about here is inexperience or an inability to learn from it.  Its been a long time since most people  my age have turned up anywhere in full fairy regalia, though I do have a Halloween picture from when I was five, dressed as Glinda the Good Witch, or a reasonable approximation thereof.  The thought of my own youthful indiscretions recorded forever on a social networking site sends a shiver down my spine.  If I do ever don a Glinda costume again, it will be after I’ve won ‘Britain has talent’, and ala Susan Boyle, I’ve landed the part in Wicked.  So, never.

Kids these days, eh?  It must be because Digital Natives are so different from ‘us’.  NOT.  This sort of posting-a-picture-your-friend-took-of-you-unconscious-on-the-sofa story proves that people really don’t change and there are many out there committing the same indiscretions that you and I did, except many of them are doing it for all the Web 2.0 world to see.  Its like running with scissors:  all parents say not to do it, but younger people  think they are immortal and invincible, not to mention having superpowers.  None of their friends has ever put an eye out or gotten into hot water over a Facebook posting.  Why are you buggin’  me about it, Mom?

All of this demonstrates once again how important it is to have company policy regarding the use of social media.  Don’t Twitter about trade secrets, for example, or about the fact that your boss is an ogre and your company run by people who could not organize a drinking competition in a brewery.  Behavior that puts your business at risk needs to be a sackable offence.  It would seem to be common sense, but I’ll bet some are doing it, as some are posting pictures of themselves doing something else while they are bunking off work. 

Your policies should reflect the distinction between public and private.  Risks to the business should be mitigated with guidelines, the simpler the better.  Most people have a sense of where the line is, although it is not a very bright one. They can be trusted not to cross it, mostly.  Behavior that is illegal immoral or just plan daft in the workplace is out of bounds no matter what medium you are communicating in.  And if you do get employees harrassing each other in email, or planning to cook the books onTwitter, or any other form of electronic media that leaves a record, that’s a good thing:  it makes them easier to track down, fire and prosecute. 

The biggest challenge for all of us whether we be digital natives or not, is deciding on the line we wish to put in place between our personal and professional lives.  That’s going to take a while.  People will make mistakes and they’ll pay for them.  That’s just Life.

Meanwhile, how about using this rule:  Before you email, blog, Twitter, update your status on Facebook or anything else, imagine yourself on the witness stand with this being read out in open court.  And oh, yeah, your Mom is in the courtroom.  She’s waving a pair of scissors and saying ‘You never listen and NOW look what’s happened.”  That ought to keep everyone in line.

Category: 

Tags: blog  e-discovery  privacy  social-networking  tweet  twitter  

Debra Logan
Research VP
5 years at Gartner
25 years IT industry

Roles and Responsibilities Debra Logan is a vice president in Gartner Research. She covers enterprise content management, records management, knowledge management and worker productivity, intellectual capital, and intellectual property topics and compliance as related to documentation... Read Full Bio


Thoughts on What Goes On Facebook, Stays in Facebook. Forever.


  1. Debra: Facebook (and other social networking) is so easy; it comes so naturally to some people. Inevitably they will use it to transact serious business. In fact, I’ve documented one example of an employer terminating an employee by way of a Facebook message! Legally speaking, that notice of termination is a business record. From a legal governance perspective, business records like that need to be retained. This issue raises difficult records policy issues for organizations. But I believe organizations are wiser to try to capture the records than to ban Facebook as a business medium. http://legal-beagle.typepad.com/wrights_legal_beagle/2009/05/facebook-as-a-business-record.html What do you think? –Ben

  2. ETO says:

    Well, guess what. All of my friends will know about this ASAP. Not a fair practice after promising that all info is confidential. There are laws against this.



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