It’s Not The CIA: How to Ensure Your Online Presence is Solid


Most folks already know or suspect they are being monitored online by their employer. What are the ways in which this happens? Maybe you already know the statistics which are widely reported. If you are a job candidate you should know that more than half of all employers use social networks as a screening tool. This is now a standard procedure of online recruitment and the numbers of employers using this method increases every year.

Employers are also using regular search engines to look for applicants as well. This type of online surveillance has both pros and cons because according to a 2014 Career Builder survey, 51 percent of employers found negative material that influenced their decision against a candidate. You can guess what those negative things might be; alcohol and drug use, discriminatory and disparaging remarks about others, criminal behavior, lies about qualifications and questionable photos among others. On the positive side, hiring managers also found good things about potential candidates such as; wide range of interests, awards, strong references, and verification of actual credentials. The Career Builder survey also noted that for a growing number of hiring managers the lack of any online information about a candidate reduced the chances they would ask a candidate to interview.

If you already have the job then you should know that Career Builder says employers continue to use social networks to “watch” current employees. In addition to this, they are also willing to pay for services that troll the internet looking for information about current employees too.  Beyond this let’s also be reminded that while you are at work and on the job your employer can see your emails and know which websites you visit on their company issued PC or laptop. Every file you’ve ever saved can be accessed and they can remotely view what you’re doing on your computer in real time. Do not use that company chat board to talk to your friend at work. It is without a doubt being monitored. A chat feature can fool you into being a lot less formal and a lot less careful in your communications. Be smart – stay away from it.

I used to see plenty of co-workers from time to time checking Facebook at work but most have wised up because even though it could be considered a personal website, your employer can literally see everything you receive or send, even from those personal websites…if it’s from their computer. If your organization or company is small in size, let’s say 40 people or fewer, they could spend the time to read all your messages.  Whereas in a much larger organization they might not commit to such an undertaking because of the sheer number of employees. But that’s still not to say that it couldn’t be done.

So now you must be thinking about some of those not-so-nice emails that you sent from work to your friend long ago when you were having a bad work day. But are there any limits to employer snooping and are there any protections for employees? First of all, you can protect yourself by reading your organization’s internet use policy. By doing so, you can at least know the framework by which you can use the company computers, email accounts, and internet. I recently learned that employers can be subject to violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Stored Communications Act, or any applicable state laws that might pertain to access to social media sites.

But let’s say you just could not stop typing and sharing your inner most negative thoughts about your employer. One limit on employer sanctions against this type of behavior falls under the National Labor Relations Act. The Act could be applied to determine whether an employee engaged in activity that is “protected and concerted”. To cut through the legal-ease this basically means that despite negative comments about an employer made on Facebook, through emails, or any other social media, from one employee to another employee – if the statements are with regards to working conditions – they could be considered “protected and concerted” activity under the NLRA.

Of course every situation is unique and only a qualified lawyer could give the best advice. My advice is to be prudent, mind your online presence, and watch what you do online because others are watching you as well.

Yolanda Smith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.


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