Title: MySpace, Facebook and Employee Privacy
Author(s): Richard T. Gawne
Affiliation: Western Michigan University
Presented At: STiS 2008
Primary Topic Area: ICT Policy
In recent years social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have revolutionized the way that people communicate and share information. But the fact that much of the data posted to these sites is available in the public domain has created problems for some users. There are a number of cases where employers have reprimanded or fired their employees for information that they have posted on these sites. The purpose of this essay is to examine the ethicality of this sort of ‘data mining.’ Users of social networking sites often feel that their privacy has been violated when their employers mine their personal pages for information, even though their intended audience might include people who they have never met. I argue that users regard these mining activities as intrusive because they believe that they have a special type of relationship with their audience which makes it appropriate for them to reveal a personal side of themselves which they may never show to their co-workers or supervisors. Although this personal information might exist in the public domain, I argue that it is inappropriate for employers to use it as a means of judging the character of their employees. I base this conclusion on the idea that the environment a person is in determines what behavior he or she will engage in; consequently the way an individual behaves online does not necessarily reveal any personal characteristics which will manifest themselves while the individual is working for his or her employer.