A teenage girl was fired from her job after posting inappropriate comments about customers on Facebook. Two female employees claimed they were subjected to sexual harassment by their employer on social networks. A family in Arizona had their home burglarized after they twittered their vacation plans. And a rash of student-teacher sexual relationships has spawned crackdowns on social-networking friendships. These are real life cases of people who found out the hard way that what you say and post online can be used against you.
So what do you do when social networking turns into social disaster?
Renowned attorney Gloria Allred addresses the legal risks with revealing too much information on social networks and offers the following tips on how to protect yourself and your family.
Parents Can Protect Their Children, Families From The Dangers Of Online Social Networking
- Parents should become familiar with all of the risks associated with online social networking and help set up rules, and guidelines, and explain to their child what the ramifications are for their behavior in what is essentially a public environment.
- Use discretion and common sense when posting information on social networking sites. Remind children, friends, relatives etc. that they can't always trace where messages, posts and pictures eventually end up and who will access them.
- Don't post information that can result in crime, such as that you are going away on vacation and therefore your home will be empty.
Employees Take Caution, You Could Be At Risk Of Losing Your Job
- If the post was considered offensive or detrimental towards the employer, its business or business relationships (clients, employees, competitors etc.), the posting may be grounds for termination in most states.
- If the employee who posted the information signed a nondisparagement or confidentiality agreement in connection with his or her employment OR if the employer had a policy that work computers were not to be used for such purposes at any time – employees that post negative content may be at risk of losing his/her job.
- Also, if an "at will" employment is involved – that is an employee who does not have a written employment contract – the employer has the right to terminate an employee with or without cause as long as there’s no discriminatory motive and/or public policy issue.
What You Say Online Can Be Used Against You In A Court Of Law
- Online social networks are public forums, and once information is in the public domain, it can be used against you in a court of law.
- Once information is posted online, it’s recorded forever and available for retrieval 20, 30, 40 years down the road and can later be used in a court of law where relevant.
- For example, let’s say a case arises where a witness’ credibility is at issue and a person denies that he or she has ever taken drugs. An online search finds a post made by that person years earlier that contradicts their denial of ever having taken drugs, that post could destroy a litigant’s credibility and ultimately be the deciding factor in who wins or loses a case.