Ethics of Social Media Usage in the Workplace
How do you know whether how a company monitors their employees’ behavior on social media is done in an ethical way? Social media is hugely important to businesses, but it is also incredibly risky. It could potentially be a huge misuse of resources, there is the potential for conflicts of interest, and then there is the issue of confidentiality. Unsurprisingly, the variety of compliance and ethical issues is something that many, including Matthew Knouff, are pondering over.
Properly Managing Social Media
Unfortunately, it is impossible to see social media as something separate from everything else. A business that does not take the initiative to have a social media strategy in place either exposes itself to too many risks, or misses out on a fantastic opportunity. Hence, strategic action has to be taken, not in the least to anticipate the direction in which this technology is moving.
One of the key issues with social media is that it is so vast. It incorporates:
- Communication – social networking sites, events, micro-blogs, and blogs.
- Collaboration – tagging, bookmarking, social news, wikis.
- Multimedia – live-casting, presentation sharing, media sharing, photography, video.
- Entertainment – game sharing, virtual worlds, media platforms.
It is vital the companies start by gaining an understanding of the overarching regulatory and legal standings, including:
- Regulation FD, which discusses how operation and financial information can be used outside of a business.
- HIPAA covers the privacy of employees.
- Intellectual property laws focus on the IP address of a business and how it can be shared socially.
- FINRA focuses on social networking sites and blogs.
These are just the ones that exist today, and new regulations and laws are being implemented on an almost daily basis.
There are three different ways in which companies can be affected by social media:
- How employees use the networks and tools for private use while at work.
- How employees use the networks and tools to promote the objectives of the business.
- What the rights and responsibilities are for external parties who engage with the business through social media.
It is vital, yet incredibly difficult, to determine how social media can be managed ethically. The first point, for instance, could also delve into the realms of how people behave when they are not at work, which could be unethical. In fact, this is now referred to as “Ethical Egoism”. This also refers to companies who now look at job applicants’ social media accounts before deciding to hire them. What companies should strive for is known as “Ethical Relativism”, which means that they can only look at, and make decisions based on, social media behavior that is relevant to their organization. Defining this, however, is proving to be almost impossible.
It is clear that the work of people like Matt Knouff, who are attempting to determine what ethics within the realms of social media mean, focusing on employee and employer behavior, but also on company exposure, personal use, and data mining, is vital to the future of the world. Social media isn’t going anywhere, it just has to be incorporated in the right manner.