Washington Times LTE, 7/19/2006:

 

Employers Need to Publish Blogging Policies

 

The Times story (7/17, Jacqueline Palank) on employers and social networking sites reflects a rapidly increasing concern of businesses that employee behavior in a public space, even “off duty,” can affect them. The story also shows that some employers may regard an applicant’s publicly viewable activity as, like dress, indicative of character, temperament or fitness for a competitive job requiring ability to function in a social hierarchy. 

 

The Internet has offered “ordinary people” essentially free entry into a global audience in order to debate sensitive issues. This is good for democracy, as in the long run the effect of special interest groups, with their “lowest common denominator” appeal, can be reduced.  The capacity to draw worldwide attention to oneself presents unprecedented, but double-edged, ethical and legal issues that need new principles. It will be regrettable, and harmful to public integrity, if employers routinely use “Google hacking” as a test for social conformity.

 

Common sense says that the kind of job should affect its sensitivity to personal reputation. Managerial positions (requiring direct reports) or marketing jobs (representing the company in public outside of the physical workplace) raise particular concerns. Employers should develop blogging policies, tailored to their different types of jobs. In some states, employers may remain silent out of downstream legal concerns, and as a result we are seeing a lot of under the table “surveillance” of applicants, often without their knowledge. Announcement of well-conceived public speech policies to applicants and employees would be much more ethical. 

 

John W Boushka

4201 Wilson Blvd #110-688

Arlington VA 22203-1859

 

Best phone is 571-334-6107  

 

The Times published the story as “’Off Duty’ employee behavior

 

With slight changes

 

The story “Face it: ‘Book’ no secret to employer” (Page 1, Monday) about employers and social networking sites reflects a rapidly increasing concern of businesses that employee behavior in a public space, even “off duty,” can affect them. The story also shows that some employers may regard an applicant’s publicly viewable activity as, like dress, indicative of character, temperament or fitness for a competitive job requiring ability to function in a social hierarchy. 

 

The Internet has offered “ordinary people” essentially free entry into a global audience in order to debate sensitive issues. This is good for democracy, as in the long run, the effect of special interest groups, with their “lowest common denominator” appeal, can be reduced.  The capacity to draw worldwide attention to oneself presents unprecedented, but double-edged, ethical and legal issues that need new principles. It will be regrettable, and harmful to public integrity, if employers routinely use Google as a test for social conformity.

 

Common sense says that the kind of job should affect its sensitivity to personal reputation. Managerial positions (requiring direct reports) or marketing jobs (representing the company in public outside of the physical workplace) raise particular concerns.

 

Employers should develop blogging policies, tailored to their different types of jobs. In some states, employers may remain silent because of legal concerns that may arise down the line. And as a result we are seeing a lot of under-the-table surveillance of applicants, often without their knowledge. Announcement of this, and of company’s policies regarding social-networking sites, to applicants and employees would be much more ethical. 

 

 

Note: The letter, when slightly edited, places more emphasis on the idea that employers may differentiate between the legitimacy of a site’s content and the employee’s conduct in putting that content in a public, searchable space.    

 

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