To Friend Or Not To Friend: New Developments that Impace Social Media's Place in the Office


Employers and employees are continuing to grapple with the use of social media in the workplace. On the one hand, social media can be a powerful online marketing tool that provides access to 500 million users (and that number accounts for Facebook users, alone). On the other hand, social media is also a demonstrated leading contributor to security incidents and data leaks. This article presents several recent developments and perhaps overlooked legal constraints that bear on the use of social media in the office.

Vetting Job Applicants

Human resources staff may be in the habit of reviewing applicants’ Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn pages, or using those sites to recruit new hires. Applicants’ posts to social media often reveal “personal characteristics” and “modes of living,” which constitute “consumer reports” governed by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). As a result, assembling reports about applicants based on social media content and regularly disseminating those reports to third parties (including affiliates) can render an organization a “consumer reporting agency.” When such reports are used in connection with making employment-related decisions, both the reporting agency and the user of the report can face potential liability if the reporting and decision making was not performed in compliance with the FCRA.

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