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May 4th, 2009
11:15 AM ET

Online Privacy and Your Job

Most of us are smart enough to not vent about the boss on company e-mail. But what about on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter? Probably not too smart either. Just because you’re off the clock doesn't mean the company isn’t watching!

CNN's Alina Cho reports on how some employers are using the Internet to spy on workers.

Share your thoughts about your life, your work and your privacy. Did you feel like that was a violation of privacy? We will have your comments live from 11a-1p.

Filed under: Tony Harris
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Stephen Goodrich

    If you're disparaging co-workers/customers, either privately or in cyberspace, you deserve to be let go. Newsflash........Employment is a privelage!

    May 4, 2009 at 10:08 am |
  2. dixie

    When will people learn that nothing you say on the internet is ever private? You want to complain about work, go have a happy hour and commiserate. Don't be surprised when things in writing, whether "private" or not, get thrown in your face later.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  3. Michael

    How much of an idiot do you have to be writing disparaging stuff relating to your job online where people can find it. You should be fired for stupidity.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  4. Gloria

    Anyone is thinks that the internet is "private" is dillusional. Nowadays, even a diary is not private. If you need to vent, look in the mirror. Even venting to your friends, co-workers or family can be dangerous.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  5. Shawn Moriarty from La Honda CA

    I enjoy using social sites as much as many people, AND these are public sites! Yes we have the freedom of speech, and, once again it is a pubic site. If they want to have a more private situation, create a yahoo group and control the access. If someone gets a password, too bad. These are public venues. Just because people want their privacy on the internet, that does not make it a private place. Many people are ignorant of exactly how the internet works, and they simply assume that everything they type is private. Not true. People should assume that things they say on-line are similar to having a conversation in a crowded coffee shop. Someone might overhear you. Act accordingly.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  6. Lu

    You really want privacy? Don't speak your mind in publically accessible cyber world. There's a thing call "diary" for your absolute deliberation. Lock it in a safe if you like. What she was doing is exactly like, "hey, let me tell you something that no one else know, but please do not tell others".

    May 4, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  7. Mrs.Ram

    If you post it online, its public domain, because it is not in the privacy of your own private access controlled domain or domicile. Venting in any public forum or third party vendor forum is subject to the same treatment as if you did it at work, school or the street corner. You are not limited in what you say or do, but you are responsible for its reprocussions. The Freedom of Speech does not relieve one from the responsibility of what one says.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  8. Andre' Cooley

    Nothing is private, especially when you post it online. I tell people all the time on facebook and Myspace not to post things that are not appropriate. Future employers do look at what you have online. I do not understand how an individual can expect to have things private "in plain view." It is like walking around your house nude with the curtains open and not expecting anyone to look in. In a traffic stop anything in "plain view" can be seized. People must understand that thier private thoughts should remain just that...

    May 4, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  9. Julie

    To think that anything you say online is private is naive. There are so many ways companies and individuals can get around passwords and other barriers to think you are safe online is one of the greatest delusions.
    If you don't want your company to know what you think don't write it down anywhere! It's just that simple.
    To think that you can write whatever you want and not receive backlash from anyone is just ridiculous. It's freedom of speech not freedom from consequences.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  10. Sujata

    I disagree. The employers own your 8 hours at work that they are paying you for. However, your time out of work is yours. This is a violation of my freedom and my right to privacy. They are not paying me for my time.

    And oh yes, privilege is not spelt "privelage" 🙂

    May 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  11. Barbie from Hollywood, CA

    Intelligent people should know better than to use Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace, etc. to vent. I have Twitter, but am thinking about dropping it. Even personal e-mails between allegedly good friends are no longer safe... Just think of the FBI & NSA... NEVER put anything in writing that can come back, one day, to bite you! It's just "common sense" which as far as I can see, ISN'T being taught or used in this high-tech society. Once something is "out there"–it can never be deleted. Freedom of Speech is a nice concept, but not safe on the internet!

    May 4, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  12. Peggy Wang

    It's hard to draw the line between the public and private as the two blur together on the Internet. Is this a question of ethical conduct? We know we shouldn't talk behind people's backs, but we do – because it relieves stress to convey to others our gripes; should that communication be suppressed? Will we have to live constantly worrying over what we say? I thought our country was one of liberty and freedom of speech.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  13. David Grayeagle

    I'd tell you but the Boss might be watching! Wait I don't have a Job.
    I think that having a place to vent as they say, without worrying that everyone is looking at what your saying can be productive, or it can be damaging. I have been at both ends. I found that when I was in this type of situation I was able to let the other person know just why things were handled the way they were. Or offered suggestions as to why they happened. I also found that quite often the employees chose the last thing that happened to them to vent on, not the reason they were feeling overwhelmed to start with. When you start any "Job" you are told that Communication is a must, or at least a large part of it. You should be able to talk to your co-workers about something that has happened at you job site, not to the public, very important "Co-worker Not Public". Your Co-worker may be able to defuse the situation by pointing out something you didn't see, or offer a reason why. And if you are so unhappy that you can't find a way to just "Get Over It" maybe it's time to look for other employment.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  14. Mr bury

    i believe employees should have the right to express their opinions in a healthy way that does not undermine their employer who pays their them to work there. a privilege no doubt but if there's an important issue that needs attention then employees should be able to discuss it without fear of reprisal in their privacy.

    i believe where the real problem with her case is the allegations of product knowledge test info being shared. if any of those in the private group were not already legally privileged to this content as employees then she most likely violated her employment contract.

    As an employer i would make sure my contracts with my employees were read, understood and signed and initialed where appropriate.

    Speculating from 30 yrs of computer experience and expert understanding of how myspace works, no one can simply join a private group without being invited so i believe someone in the private group back stabbed her and showed the bosses while logged into the group. thats not a password breech and you can not expect anyone in your private group not to share the content with anyone, even the ones you are talking about.

    So they probably made screen snapshots and printed them. and in my opinion she has no case or resources to go all the way. I would bet there will be a offer to resolve this out of court.

    The real question is how can anyone talk about work related issues without fear of reprisal? Unless the employers are doing something unethical or illegal then i don't believe there is a safe means other than pillow talk. Unfortunately there are others who might want your job and backstab you for it.

    It is also unfortunate that she lost her job and doubtfully could use them as a good reference. I wish her luck in finding a new job after this.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  15. Phillip

    Mistake #1 is thinking that social networks are private: they're not. Anything said on-line is akin to a conversation at a party or in a restaurant, free for any and all to hear. Mistake #2 is not understanding that whatever is written is for all practical purposed written in stone. It can be copied, forwarded, saved, etc. Only a personal, verbal conversation can be disputed.

    Another question is why this person decided to air her views on the web instead of being proactive and discussing this with her supervisor, or perhaps an outside worker's relations agency. There are far smarter ways to handle employee – employer disputes.

    May 4, 2009 at 1:12 pm |
  16. Sal L.

    Regardless of what was said, there is no definitive way to prove the user in question actually posted the comments. Even though it can be proven the message came from her computer, there is no way to prove she was the one who sent the message. I don't believe she has a case on privacy, since she posted to the internet (public domain). She may, however, have a wrongful termination case, if she would deny she posted the message in question. It just proves that any publicity is good publicity for some.

    May 4, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  17. Anthony

    I do not believe firing them for bad mouth the boss is right. It was said that they talk about customers and about the product. That is extremely important and grounds for getting fired with no hesitation.

    May 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  18. Beyond.The.Political.Spectrum

    I think it's time for states (and the federal government) to eliminate the "at-will" policy of firing people without having to give a reason. Maybe if companies were forced to operate under a "show cause" policy, they wouldnt be so quick to act with impunity.

    May 4, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  19. Anna Olson

    I have been through that in the past with the previous employer that I use to work for. No I was not fired because of that. But I will say this.
    This is American and we do have the freedom of speech and opinon.
    We can say whatever we want as long as we are not on company time.
    I hope that this person wins there court case and gets extra for all the trouble that they have put this person through.
    Remember last time I looked this was America.

    May 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  20. Mary

    A password is a key. If you need a password or a key to get into something, you must have the right or invitation to do so. Just because you find out the company password it does not give you the right to sign in. In fact, you may find yourself in court for hacking. If someone gives you the key to someones house it doesn't give the right to go in just because you have a key. Locks only keep honest people honest as do passwords.

    May 5, 2009 at 10:27 am |
  21. concerned

    When you are off the clock ..they should not be able to fire you ..because you do not have to like the people you work with only respect them ...

    May 5, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
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