Facebook: Social Breadcrumbs in the Dock

Summary:When you work in a large company, there's often an awareness that your email is accessible to your employer so that communication method tends to be used very conservatively for business communication. This is based on past experiences, and now that email is a pretty mature medium these days most of literate society understands the ramifications of using it.

When you work in a large company, there's often an awareness that your email is accessible to your employer so that communication method tends to be used very conservatively for business communication. This is based on past experiences, and now that email is a pretty mature medium these days most of literate society understands the ramifications of using it.

Since social networking is so new, the types of blunders people used to make with email - reply all insults to the boss, lewd jokes and pictures, and far more seriously letting the cat out of the bag on critical legal issues that can be subsequently discovered - are frequent in the new medium.

Facebook's open graph protocol encourages the proliferation of their 'Like' button on other sites around the web. From developers.facebook.com:

Including Open Graph tags on your Web page, makes your page equivalent to a Facebook Page. This means when a user clicks a Like button on your page, a connection is made between your page and the user. Your page will appear in the "Likes and Interests" section of the user's profile, and you have the ability to publish updates to the user. Your page will show up in same places that Facebook pages show up around the site (e.g. search), and you can target ads to people who like your content.

By clicking on a Facebook 'Like' button embedded in a website you're visiting, you are also agreeing to share your social graph - ie all your personal Facebook content associated with your account - with the owners of that site in certain commercial situations. Facebook provides valuable analytics and demographic information at facebook.com/insights.

Insidefacebook.com tracks Facebook and the Facebook Platform for Developers and Marketers who are leveraging the medium, and need rich usage and behavior data. This valuable source of information for and about the social media marketing business also has some valuable broader insights.

Eric Goldman, an Associate Professor of Law at California's Santa Clara University School of Law teaches Cyberlaw and Intellectual Property and researches Internet law, intellectual property, marketing, and the legal and social implications of new communication technologies.

From his 'Goldman's Observations' blog from this time last year:

....I am now seeing a steady stream of cases where Facebook or MySpace postings are being used to contradict a litigant's or witness' testimony in a court case. I think the following excerpt from People v. Franco, 2009 WL 3165840 (Cal. App. Ct. Oct. 5, 2009), where a jury convicted the defendant Franco of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, exemplifies what I'm seeing:

At about 10:30 a.m. on June 6, 2006, Franco and Henry Chavez were seen racing each other in their Mustang vehicles on the Ventura Freeway, each reaching speeds of approximately 100 miles per hour. Franco applied her brakes while Chavez was directly behind her, causing him to lose control of his vehicle. The vehicle travelled to the other side of the freeway, flipped, and landed in a strawberry field. Chavez was killed. Franco did not stop.

Franco testified that she was driving approximately 75 miles an hour on the freeway when Chavez began tailgating her. When she changed lanes, he followed her. Noticing that her speed had increased, she tapped on her brakes to slow down. Chavez veered to avoid hitting her, then lost control of his vehicle. She saw a plume of dust but kept driving as her boyfriend advised when she called him on her cell phone. The day before the accident, however, Franco had written on her MySpace page, “If you find me on the freeway and you can keep up I have a really bad habit of racing random people.”

I know most of us already know this lesson, but this case reminds us that our statements on social networking sites can and will be used against us. It also reminds us how hard it's becoming to maintain multiple persona--in this case, the in-court persona of being a safe and courteous driver while simultaneously maintaining an alternative persona as a "secret" street racer.

Notice this case is from actions the morning of June 6 2006 - myspace.com was the 'social media' fashion du jour back then. It will be a while before people learn what is in the public domain and to be more cautious in what they share online, as we do with our work email, but another cautionary note is sounded by Eric last month on his Technology & Marketing Law Blog: Deleted Facebook and MySpace Posts Are Discoverable--Romano v. Steelcase. (Eric's a prodigious blogger!)

Pretty self explanatory title - I'm sure there are ever increasing pieces of evidence going through court systems all over the world relating to posts on social networks.

What has this to do with enterprise collaboration? Simply this: while many executives try to find the value of harnessing these types of technologies for their specific workplace needs, the fear of losing control of governance and information is a significant barrier to 'Facebook in the enterprise' style tools being taken seriously. There is clear value but also the threat of losing your career if your reports get caught up in ill advised online indiscretions.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Legal

About

With extensive senior management practical experience in international enterprise collaboration, Oliver previously managed the Sony PlayStation 'WorldWide Studios' collaboration extranet, and has worked with the American Management Association, Sun, Docent/SumTotal Systems, Harvard Business School and McKinsey & Company on major initiativ... Full Bio

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