Social Media Policy – Part 8 – Confidential Information, Terms of Service, and Legal Issues

Although it may be a matter of common sense that employees should follow terms of service and the law and also not to disclose confidential information, most social media policies include clauses stating that employees are responsible for their actions with regard to confidential information, terms of service, and obeying the law.

What else should be considered in this area? Does the policy need to be explicit?

Cross post from my blog at

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Adriel Hampton

I apologize for not contributing in the comments, but wanted to say I appreciate this series greatly and have mentally bookmarked it big time.

Dannielle Blumenthal

This is an important discussion and I too appreciate the information. One thing that occurs to me in all this discussion about policy is that it is not a neutral tool but rather a communication to employees in and of itself. If the policy is vague, or overly complex, or forbidding, that is a message to employees that they are jeopardizing their jobs by engaging in social media. If it is clear, plainly written, and outlines the rules and risks, that is a message to employees that the organization sees them as adults and has sufficient respect for them to advise them of their rights and responsibilities in this area. And if it is encouraging and written in a light manner, (e.g., “have fun,”) then employees will feel freer to participate in social media. (Of course, if there is no policy, then that is a message too, although how one interprets it in a specific way depends on the individual organization.) The bottom line is, rather than allowing the “organizational unconscious” to dictate real world action, there ought to be an open conversation about the anxieties and possibly inflated hopes organizations have about social media and how employees will use it, and then there is an opportunity for rationality to bring the conversation back to earth so that a sensible course of action can be decided upon.

Kathleen Smith

This looks like a great parallel discussion to the “Facebook & Twitter Health Endangering Discussion”

Yes, risks, and benefits along with training and guidance need to be shared with employees whether they work in the public or private sector. As it is so aptly put by both Chris Dorobek and Mark Drapeau, ‘social networking” is a term that is causing a great disservice as so many think that the collaboration tools are just about having fun or playing. Other time wasting activities occur in the offline world in offices as well – birthday parties, coffee breaks but these activities also serve vital purposes of bringing connection and improving communication. The same can be said of utilizing social networking tools online. Reading posts, sharing information or improving a knowledge base can all be done online as well as finding a really good joke, sharing family pictures or getting a great recipe.

The challenge is setting a policy for social interaction takes away the basic essence of a community that self governs.