Respect privacy. The company policies with regard to the use of Internet information in investigations should follow the law. There is no violation of the Stored Communications Act, nor are there privacy concerns, when investigations are performed with information available to the public. Therefore, if an employee’s privacy settings allow open access to material, the company can review it without issue. But if the material is password protected or is viewable by invitation only, then employers must respect those boundaries. Company representatives should carefully document how they access such information and ensure that any access is freely given. If the representative cannot access the information in question without exerting some level of pressure on an employee, the company should abandon that course of action.
By understanding the legal challenges posed by social media and then developing a policy to address them, companies can reap the benefits of new technology while minimizing potential problems.
John P. Quirke is a partner with Archer and Greiner, PC, in New Jersey. He concentrates exclusively on management-side employment law.
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