Are Your Employees Tweeting Your Company Secrets?

Keyboard to Tweet Company Secrets?

Today’s digital environment makes it too easy for key information to be revealed to outside people or organizations that can damage your business. According to a 2009 survey conducted by the American Management Association and ePolicy Institute, 14% of the employees surveyed at 596 companies indicated that they had emailed confidential company information to outsiders. And it does not stop there; an additional 14% said that they had forwarded “company eyes only” emails beyond their corporate confines.

In today’s new social media frenzy, how can you as a business owner ensure that confidential company information is not being tweeted or “facebooked” for competitors to see? Coming up with a clear answer is difficult.  If your employees are utilizing company supplied electronic devices, such as cell phones or laptops, you have the right to monitor their digital activities without notifying them (unless, of course, you leave in either Connecticut or Delaware, where businesses are required to disclose to employees any monitoring of their business activity). However, most companies across the country do advise their employees of their corporate watchdog activities. Let’s face it; one of the best ways to deter employee abuse of electronic communications is to simply advise them you are watching.

Now whether you can require an employee to “friend” your business on their personal social network to monitor them is legally debatable, especially if they are visiting these sites from their personal devices. Recently in the state of Maryland, a Department of Corrections employee was required to provide his Facebook account log in and password information in order to be re-certified for his position. Cases like this are being taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and fought vigorously to protect individual privacy over business privacy.

It is expected that society’s desire to gather on social networks will only increase, and this will undoubtedly continue to amplify business privacy issues. The list of employees being terminated for posting disparaging or revealing information on social networks is becoming longer every day and garnering more attention by groups like the ACLU. An eventual high court show seems to be looming over this issue.

In the meantime, the best advice for budding entrepreneurs to avoid such issues is to utilize a professional employer organization (PEO) or Employee Leasing Company. By partnering with a PEO, small businesses can outsource the staffing and administrative duties involved with running a small business (commonly referred to as outsourcing HR and focus on developing the company.  PEOs deal with Human Resources and Corporate Privacy Policies daily, allowing you as the small business owner the time to focus on the issues that drive your core business.

Put the concerns of having your company’s secrets exposed to rest by engaging the staffing/policy experts at your local PEO (or even contact a global PEO) and steer your company towards a brighter future.

 

About the author

Carolyn Sokol is a frequent contributor to and writes about issues that may affect small businesses such as administrative duties which can be handled by an Employee Leasing company. She is a founder of PEOcompare.com which helps match small businesses with the right PEO Companies for their particular needs. Her background is in marketing and communications, employee education and training, development of policies and procedures and the ongoing delivery of outstanding service to customers.

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