Web 2.0 applies to web applications that allow users to interact and change website content. It is an ongoing work, where everyone can contribute; it’s fast, used for reference and attracts millions of viewers and contributors. It is not always accurate.
Whether companies embrace social networking and blogging or not, most will be affected in some manner.
Employers need to decide how, not if Web 2.0 will be used and by whom. Will marketing and customer service have blogs? If so, what are the rules? Will recruiters use social media as a method to conduct background checks?
Case law is having a difficult time keeping up with technology. It’s past time to develop related policies. Perhaps the best advice is to practice rules of etiquette.
According to a Deloitte study, 82% of individuals surveyed had purchase decisions directly influenced by user reviews, even those posted anonymously. Some companies open their websites to consumers and respond directly to unhappy customers in an attempt to control damage.
The Web 2.0 reaches far beyond customer complaints. Employees may be blogging about a supervisor, a new policy, or a union organizing campaign. It may happen on-the- clock, on company equipment or on personal time and equipment. Companies need to have policies in place that restrict potentially damaging communication without prohibiting National Labor Relation Board protections.
In Pietrylo v Hillstone Restaurant Group, a MySpace page was created as a method for employees to complain about their employer. The site was password protected. News of the site reached management and a manager was able to get the password and access the site. The main issue was whether the employee who allowed the manager access was coerced. The Restaurant Group was found liable for violations of the Stored Communications Act and an electronic surveillance statute.
LVRC Holdings, LLC v Brekka, 2009 is a case where Brekka was an employee with outside consulting practices in the same field. Brekka emailed confidential and financial company documents to his personal email accounts during his employment and allegedly after his employment ended. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was not violated according the Ninth Circuit because the company gave Brekka authorization to access the information even though Brekka used the information for his personal gains. This case demonstrates the need to clarify non- disclosure and confidentiality policies.
Even more serious than employees taking confidential information and trade secrets, is criminal activity. This may be sexual harassment, child pornography, employee sabotage, or misuse of copyrighted material. These activities place employers in jeopardy, including liability for negligent retention or supervision. The stakes are too high to simply ignore the need for policies and training.
Get Policies in Place Now