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A recent court case in France serves as an important reminder that content you publish on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, is not confidential and can come back to haunt you if you don’t exercise smart social media privacy habits.

A French labor tribunal ruled in favor of Alten SIR, a consulting company near Paris that discharged three employees after they posted “denigrating” and “rebellious” comments about their employer on Facebook from their personal home computers. The comments discussed Alten SIR managers, including its human resources director.

Here is the story, according to TLNT, a human resources blog:

The conversation appeared on one of the three employee’s Facebook page, with comments by two other employees, including the individual responsible for recruiting at that company. The comments included the statement by one employee requesting the other to join what he called a “club des néfastes” (club of the “evildoers” or “ill-fated” employees) for those whom Human Resources Director was alleged to have held in poor esteem.

Among the statements in this exchange included an employee’s statement “welcome to the club,” and that in order to join the club des néfastes, members had to make the Human Resources Director’s life “impossible” for many months.

The Facebook page that featured this conversation had relaxed social media privacy settings, allowing “friends of friends,” including other Alten SIR employees, to see it. All three employees were dismissed when the employer saw a screenshot of the conversation. The French court upheld this decision because the employees abused their right of expression by participating in the discussion on Facebook.

This case is a necessary wake-up call for everyone in the expanding information age. Since many of us are among Facebook’s 500 million active users, it is important to reassess our own posting practices. Here are four basic rules to keep social media appropriate and professional.

Savvy Tips for Social Media Privacy


1. Use the strictest privacy settings available for personal pages. Settings often change, so make sure your profile can only be viewed by friends you have approved. Photos have separate privacy settings on many sites as well, so check your albums (and avoid posting pictures that might be embarrassing or incriminating).

2. Be selective about your friends. Facebook and other websites can be a wonderful way to stay in touch with old friends through social collaboration, but keep in mind that the wider your network becomes, the more people who have access to your information. Think twice about “friending” colleagues or superiors within your organization.

3. Use the “mom” rule. Before you post something online, consider what your mother (or father or high school teacher or employer…) would think of it. If you would be embarrassed to have your mom see what you are posting, don’t do it.

4. Be nice. It’s never a good idea to badmouth or attack others, but doing so online an land you in personal and professional trouble. Don’t use social media sites for venting or commiserating with colleagues about your awful boss. Keep it nice, friendly and non-confrontational.

What are your social media privacy rules?

Learn more about EDSI’s Professional Presence in a Casual World course.

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