Privacy: Online and in the Workplace

Yesterday’s revelation by the Washington Post regarding the government’s data mining program, code named ‘Project PRISM’, has ignited a heated debate on privacy rights in the United States. The extraordinary expansion of technology in the last decade has fundamentally changed the way individuals, businesses and governments define privacy rights – and most of us are struggling to keep up. The lack of understanding around the technologies themselves, as well as the speed at which they are created, means laws are often reactionary and implemented without much discussion. And as illustrated by this most recent discovery, the public is often completely in the dark regarding their own privacy.

Privacy rights can be tricky to naviate. Fortunately, there are many ways to tools and resources available empowering individuals to dictate their privacy terms. Of course, no tool can provide complete privacy, so it is important to use your best judgement when posting updates, agreeing to terms and conditions or providing information – online and offline.


Last year, the Associated Press reported employers asking applicants for their Facebook passwords during interviews in order to see protected information. As more and more companies utilize social media and search engines to check up on employees, it is important to understand the policies of your company and your legal privacy rights.

  • Employee Privacy course: Addresses defamation, drug testing and examining employee after-hours activities.
  • American Bar Association: Broad overview of privacy rights in the workplace.
  • Fact sheet listing a few of the common questions around privacy rights in the workplace.  

Online and Social Media 

The Internet has a long memory and few things are ever truly deleted. A good rule of thumb when posting online is whether this is information you would share with a crowd at a restaurant or bar that included your family, friends and employer. Regardless, take the time to review terms of service or research other’s comments on privacy rights policy before signing up for service.

  • Facebook Privacy Policy: Notorious for making updates without informing users, here is the Facebook privacy policy broken down.
  • Ethics Education & Social Media Guidelines course: Understand how social media policies should be integrated into your employee ethical guidelines and workplace culture.
  • AccountKiller: Offers clear instructions on how to delete accounts, as well as site ratings on ease of deletion process. 

As long as technology continues to evolve and pervade every aspect of our lives, privacy rights issues will be an ongoing concern. Fortunately, those same technology innovations can help us take ownership of our privacy at a level of our choosing. What are some other tools you use to maintain your online and offline privacy?

Image Credit: Sean MacEntee