Should HR Monitor Employee Facebook Pages?

Posted in : HR Updates on 11 June 2012
Nicola Shaw
Issues covered:

Nicola Shaw writes:

I know that this is something I have touched on before, but having attended a recent breakfast seminar on social media, I now have a fresh perspective and I am not sure that it was one with which I am particularly comfortable.

The suggestion was made that we, as HR Managers, should ensure that any employees with social media account(s) must ensure that we have full access to each account i.e. accept their friend request on Facebook. You could almost hear the recoiling in the room as we all reacted with shock and horror. 

If you have read my previous blogs you will know that I have had different reactions to Facebook in the past:

  • Negative: I was not comfortable with work colleagues wanting to be friends with me on Facebook, which resulted in me putting boundaries in place and not accepting friends request from certain work colleagues
  • Positive: Professionally using information from someone’s Facebook page as evidence that contributed to their dismissal

This new position of advocating that we, as HR Professionals, make ourselves the policing monitor of all employees use of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc), was abhorrent to me. My personal time is my time away from my job - time to remove my HR hat if you will. The thought of using my personal time to monitor what employees may be saying in cyber space is not my idea of relaxing away from the office. Some initial questions from me are:

  • What do I do if someone is selected for a difficult to fill post and rejects the approach of having HR act as big brother?
  • What disciplinary action will I be required to take if someone refuses to accept as a condition of their employment that they invite me to be their friend?
  • What if someone “likes” what someone has inappropriately written – will I be required to investigate them too?

And, perhaps most importantly...

  • Will work pay me for my hours conducting covert surveillance on employees?

I am on Facebook, but I am not a user of Twitter and also do not keep a pace with the new social media platforms that are being launched and currently being considered. Will work send me on a training course to educate me on how to use these properly? And also so that I can understand what all I should be able to access in order to ensure employees are giving me full disclosure.

The above overview focuses on me conducting surveillance and monitoring employees. But, if they invite me to be friends with them and I accept, that then means that they can also see MY information. They can see:

  • my friends
  • my personal information
  • my personal photographs
  • find out information about my family

And so the list goes on. It is this that I object to most of all. This would blur the boundaries too much for me. Where is my right to privacy in this scenario? How is my right to a life away from work protected? 

I know on Facebook that I can limit the amount of information that a “friend” can access. But, would they then do the same and thus have the policy as a moot but contentious point?

This article is correct at 09/11/2015

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Nicola Shaw

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