Privacy and Social Networking in the Workplace

The following information is drawn from a fact sheet from the website for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.  To view the full article, follow this link:  Link to Complete Article


The use of social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn in the workplace raises privacy implications for both employees and employers. Organizations should develop policies on the appropriate use of SNS in the workplace.


While many employers have guidelines and codes of conduct for e-mail and Internet use, SNS pose different privacy challenges which should be specifically addressed in conjunction with these other workplace rules.  Clear rules and policies drafted specifically on the use of SNS should be communicated to all employees.


The policy should generally establish best practices and outline expectations for acceptable use of SNS in the workplace, set out the consequences of misuse, and address any workplace privacy issues.  Specifically, the policy should address:

·         whether the organization permits the use of personal or employer-hosted SNS in the workplace;

·         if SNS are permissible, in what context and for what purposes may they be used?

·         whether the employer monitors SNS sites;

·         what legislation applies to the collection, use or disclosure of personal information in the workplace;

·         what other rules may apply to the use of SNS in the workplace (collective agreements; other relevant legislation);

·         the consequences of non-compliance with the policy and,

·         any other existing policies about the proper use of electronic networks with respect to employee privacy and handling confidential information.



Employers and employees should be aware of the potential damages to individuals and the corporation through inappropriate disclosures of personal or confidential business information on SNS. The possible consequences of an improper or unintended disclosure may be:

·     a defamation lawsuit;

·     copyright, patent or trademark infringement claims,

·     a privacy or human rights complaint;

·     a workplace grievance under a collective agreement or unfair labour practice complaint;

·     criminal charges with respect to obscene or hate materials;

·     damage to the employer’s reputation and business interests.


Legal responsibility for damages from an inappropriate disclosure could potentially rest with individual employees, management or the organization as a whole.



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