With the return from the holidays, it’s fairly common to see your friend list grow on Facebook after having had the opportunity to reconnect with old acquaintances. While keeping in touch is a great idea, it’s just as important to make sure you’re not opening yourself up to potential privacy implications.
For law students, one of the most critical things to keep in mind is the position of potential employers who may have access to the information found on social networking sites.
“A digital divide exits between how youth perceive network privacy and how the older generation of managers and executives perceive it,” says Dr. Avner Levin, who co-authored a study on social network privacy through the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.
“Young people believe that information shared with their personal social networks is considered private as long as its dissemination is limited to their social network,” says Levin. “Organizations, on the other hand, don't recognize this notion of network privacy. They believe that any information posted online is public and deserves no protection.”
You can take steps to hide your online profile from recruiters, but the best idea is to only post content that you’d feel comfortable sharing during an interview. Even if your privacy settings are adequate enough to stop the average recruiter, keep in mind that recruiters will often ask their existing team of articling students for feedback about the applicants. If you happen to have one of those people on your friends list, your privacy settings can be quickly out-maneuvered.
Monitoring your privacy settings after securing employment is just as important.
“What's particularly interesting is the attitude of young Canadians who are entering the workforce at a time when organizations are embarking on the replacement of the baby boomer generation,” says Levin.
“Canadian employers are facing challenges in how to manage the use of online social networks with this new generation of employees.”
A quick search of Canadian law firms on Facebook will reveal several groups; a handful of them are endorsed by the firms, while others are clearly not. Some firms have taken advantage of the online tools by setting up groups and monitoring the content to ensure it meets company standards. Those groups are most likely safe to join, and you may even be encouraged by your employer to do so. But steer clear of those groups that are not specifically endorsed by your firm.
“It's worthy of note that none of the employers represented had a policy specifically related to online social networks unless they had experienced a related incident. All assume that their existing policies on the use of the web will handle it,” says Levin.
“On the other hand, those who recognized the potential business advantage that social networking technology brings saw the real challenge as how to discourage inappropriate behaviour while encouraging appropriate use.”
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