The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has commended
recent moves by the social networking site Facebook to restrict
employer's access to prospective and current employees'
Facebook accounts. The ATCU said that "unions have been
increasingly concerned about moves by employers to delve into their
employees' personal lives".
Facebook's chief privacy officer said the company had
witnessed employers seeking inappropriate access to people's
Facebook profiles or private information. The most concerning
practices were the reported incidences of employers asking
prospective or current employees to reveal their passwords. (It is
now a violation of Facebook's Statement of Rights and
Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password).
These practices could also potentially expose employers who seek
access to unanticipated legal claims. For example, an employer may
discover a prospective employee's religion or age on gaining
access to their Facebook account, and may open themselves up to
claims of unlawful discrimination, if they don't employ the
The other side of the coin is of course that employees who use
social media inappropriately in the course of their employment or
who damage the employer's reputation through private use may
find themselves subject to disciplinary action by the employer.
Whether that action is justified may in turn depend on whether the
employer has a well-drafted social media policy.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
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