As more people discover the power of social networks the opportunity for use and abuse grows with it. As with all new technologies, the law often plays catch-up in terms of clarifying acceptable boundaries, especially when it comes to expectations of privacy.
Now there is a new reason to fear who’s reading your wall. No it’s not the stalker or the hacker it’s the taxman. Yes friends, the taxman.
According to the news, the taxman is using information from social networks to locate tax dodgers and potential tax-dodgers. One example cited in the article involved tax agents in
But before you freak out about privacy, you might be interested to know that the courts are (slowly) recognizing some limits to unbridled access of public information.
Take for example the case involving a
It didn’t take long before a
It gave the manager window into a world he otherwise not be able to view. The group’s rants included customer service jokes and sexual comments about customers and management, plus other illicit and off-color diatribes. It was way too much information and the manager found it “offensive.”
Nonetheless, he requested the group’s password. He also went one step further. He used the information he learned by accessing the postings as a basis for firing two employees involved with the group’s formation. The ex-employees sued and at trial the jury returned an award in favor of the terminated employees.
The difference between the taxman example and
Of course, one way to create an expectation of privacy is to utilize the privacy controls that exist on social networking websites. Such controls allow you to be selective about who gets to see what. An excellent article published by the NY Times earlier this week offers five easy steps on how to protect your online privacy.
Of course, the easiest way to protect yourself is what was once referred to as the New York Times Rule: “don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the Times.” Today, we might want to expand that list to include MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc.