Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked

Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked

Summary: Only days after an Apple employee lost his appeal over company rants on a social media platform, the guidelines were subsequently leaked to the media.


After sacking one of its employees over a series of Facebook rants, Apple made it clear that the employee in question was acted in "gross misconduct" and against its internal social media policy.

Perhaps embarrassingly for Apple, the company's policies on social networking and blogging were leaked during the week, which ironically state how its employees should conduct themselves as to not leak data.

Apple's regulations include separate guidelines for social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn. They cover confidentially, customer privacy and rumour commentary in depth; with distinct guidelines of conduct over email and media platforms.

(Source: Flickr)

In general, what employees do in their own time is their choice, but Apple states in its guides that:

"The lines between public and private, and personal and professional are blurred in online social networks. Respect your audience and your co-workers. This includes not only the obvious (no ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc.) but also topics that may be considered offensive or inflammatory. In sum, use your best judgment."

Some interesting points include:

  • Employees may run their own websites, but are not permitted to discuss Apple on that website.
  • No speculating on rumours is allowed. This includes confirming or denying any information concerning new products, Apple regulations or services.
  • Blogs, wikis, social networks and other tools should not be used for communication among fellow employees. This regulation goes further in stating that differences shouldn't be aired online, co-workers should not be discussed without their permission, and any images relating to other staff members cannot be posted anywhere without their express permission.
  • Staff are not permitted to post messages or commentary on any Mac or Apple related websites; whether they identify themselves as Apple employees or not.
  • If you identify yourself as an Apple employee, you connect yourself with co-workers, products, and the global brand itself -- so conduct online needs to be consistent with Apple policies.
  • Apple's full business conduct policy applies to employees and any who do business with Apple retrospectively. Apple retains the right to discipline (up to termination of employment), or cut ties of any that do not comply with these regulations.
  • Customer privacy is viewed as a priority for Apple as a brand. Any information concerning customers is not to be discussed online in any circumstance. Apple employees are also not permitted to contact customers for social reasons or soliciting outside of business.

Taking a deeper look at these guidelines, Apple emphasises that 'public' and 'private' information are no longer separate in online social networks; clearly where the hapless employee was snagged during his tribunal.

Privacy settings continually change, and any information we post is viewable in some manner or another, it becomes public domain. In this manner, any written, evidential proof of employer or brand-bashing can be viewed as a means of breaking the business conduct policy.

The Cupertino-based company is incredibly protective of their brand, and has a global image to maintain. Any negative comments placed online by an employee could have serious consequences; an iProduct rumour being confirmed or denied could ruin a product debut.

It is unlikely a rant or two would cause deep damage to the Apple image, but without online restriction the brand could lose that sense of professionalism that inspires so many.


Topics: Social Enterprise, Apple, Collaboration, Networking

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  • What's wrong with these policies?

    Although I don't like Apple at all. I don't see anything wrong in the "employee social media policies" stated in the article.
    • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked


      I see a lot wrong with those policies. The fact is that they infringe on the right to free speech and free expression (which does not disappear just because you are employed by someone) that the world community so lauds.
      • This is no more infringent than of any other work-related speech limitation

        @Lerianis10: ... like in government, security services, medical or any other.

        It is anyone's right to whether tell something or not, and workers at Apple [b]voluntarily sign to these policies[/b]. No one forces them -- if they will not want it, then they can go away and get job at other place.

        So if someone took the job and voluntary confirmed that he/she is not going to discuss certain matter, there is no way this is limitation of free speech because, the freedom is not only to speak, but also not speak when you want it this way.
      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked


        The Constitutionally granted right to free speech is specifically about government, not private infringement. In my union we are forbidden to talk about issues brought up at meetings with outsiders. I have a signed NDA with a major audio company. In both cases, I have voluntarily agreed to an infringement on my right to free speech, and in both cases, it's quite legal. It happens all the time.
      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked


        So you are happy with companies having more power than the government. That you have free speech except when you're told not to by an employer.

        Don't you see what your doing is allowing companies to have more power than the government. Which is exactly what is killing "democracy" and even, dare I say it, "capitalism" itself.
      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked


        Still laughing over "they can go away and get job at other place" - or perhaps you don't live in the US? You are essentially being coerced to give up your right to free speech.
      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked


        When you go to work for a tech company like Apple, you MUST sign an NDA. If you break the NDA you break your contract and they have every right to fire you.
      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked

      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked

        @tonymcs [b]Still laughing over "they can go away and get job at other place" - or perhaps you don't live in the US? You are essentially being coerced to give up your right to free speech.[/b]

        You DO know that your favorite company Microsoft also has very similar NDA agreements as do most if not all large corporations and smaller companies that deal with sensitive information or tech right? So by taking a job with any of them or any government one is agreeing to a similar NDA - but since this is Apple for them to do it is evil...

        As a one time commenter on here once said: Cue the Double Standards.
      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked


        Freedom of speech means the government can't put you in jail for your speech. It has no bearing on any private individual or company which can and do censor speech.
      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked


        I don't necessarily have a problem with a company being able to fire someone for speech activities which actively damage the company. Why pay someone who is working against you?
      • Free speech doesn't exist within your workplace.

        @Lerianis10... it simply isn't a workplace right. When I go to work, I am there to perform a specific function. My current function is supporting users and managing Exchange E-mail Servers. That does not permit me to use that time evangelizing for my favorite product, religion, or political stance, and certainly if I started disparaging my co-workers or my place of employment, I would certainly expect to see a termination notice.

        Freedom of expression exists for the public to demonstrate against their government or in the face of a perceived injustices. Regardless if you agree with the movement or not that is what OWS is doing, exercising their 1st Amendment right.

        If you have evidence that your workplace doesn't meet Federal Guidelines then report those violations to the appropriate authorities and seek protection under whistle-blower laws.

        If you disagree with a way a company is doing something, and have a better idea, present it to management in a respectful way. They may just listen, especially if you can demonstrate how it may make the company more profitable.

        And finally, you can resort to blasting about your employer or co-workers, but your employer has the right to terminate you over it, and you lose a reference. I certainly didn't get to where I am today by burning bridges with former employers. Even when I have felt that I was wronged by management or the company, I left respectfully, like being laid off from one position, and refusing to interviewing me for a different position with in the company, but yet wanted to me to stay in a lower paid reclassified position, I left respectfully. I was laid of from a job, as the positions were re-organized and rec-classified, I was a couple of weeks from getting my degree in IT, and an entry level PC Tech position was open, I applied, and they refused to even interview me for the position even though I had interned for a while in the same department and position. My previous supervisor wanted me to stay for quite a bit less that I was making, and which would have been a cap for the new position. I respectfully turned down the offer on the basis that I was graduating in two weeks with my degree, and would be looking to enter my new field, also I couldn't afford to drive to that job site for the pay cut they wanted. Thanked them for the opportunity and left. A few months later I was able to land my first IT job, and the rest is history. I could have burned the bridge over the resentment for not being interviewed for the IT position, as it seemed more sensible to me to keep an employee who is familiar with the company, it's software from a users perspective, and even as someone who had steadily work his way up and through the same company. I had a lot of loyalty, and personally I was disgusted that the company didn't see that. It was their loss, but I also know enough not to burn the bridge because management changes all the time, and you never know when you may do business with them again.
      • Free speech is OK. Apple OK to fire uphappy employee's too

        @Lerianis10 I agree, talk and post all you want. Apple is not stopping you. But I agree with Apple for firing someone who obviously does not like Apple.
        Apple is certainly within its rights to dismiss a employee who does not like Apple. That's free enterprise at work.
      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked

        @Lerianis10 You see a lot wrong with it? In that case you and anyone else at Apple not happy with the policy can find another job. No one is forcing you to work at Apple, it's your choice, follow their rules or get another job. End of discussion...
      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked

        @dderss - voluntary or not, that's not relevant. Corporate policies usurp the national policies the companies enjoy living in, take subsidies and tax cuts from, etc.

        And I wonder if Apple's contractors have to adhere to the same policies...
      • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked

        @msalzberg - I stand corrected, thank you. :)

        Still, if a company takes government money or gets perks from government, then a little consideration would be nice in return as well...
    • RE: Apple's internal employee social media policies leaked

      @RelaxWalk [i]Although I don't like Apple at all. I don't see anything wrong in the "employee social media policies" stated in the article.[/i]

      Agreed. Actually a lot like what I'm used to.
    • Did not read them,but are we not entitled to our opinions?

      @RelaxWalk You know I think before you rant on a social network I think its important to decide if you want to keep your job or not. Plus, do you want future employers to read those posts? I think its one thing to rant on the phone,or texting or out for dinner with friends. It quite another to do it on a social network. I think Apple has a right to retain some control over disclosures about company policies and procedures over public sites. Most companies do this. I have relatives who constantly post how bored they are at work or post other stuff on company time. Eventually it will catch up with them and they may get fired. People need to be more careful on what they say and do.
  • I may not exactly like their policies....

    Where I work we have very similiar policies.

    When the lines blur between personal and work why are the rules more favorable to work. You would think it should be the other way around.
    • I have a hunch ...

      @rhonin ... I think it's basically because a company is a legal entity, a lot like another individual. And it's illegal for us to say or write disparaging things about individuals (and presumably companies). For one, there are privacy laws -- as an individual, we have no right to publicly discuss another individual's personal affairs. For another, we have laws about libel (defamatory written accusations) or slander (defamatory spoken accusations). People get sued over these sorts of things all the time.

      More importantly, when accepting a job at a company -- any company -- it's SOP to sign some kind of agreement stating that you will adhere to corporate policies about a range of things, which these days also includes acceptable (or prohibited) behavior on social networks. If you don't like the policies, you don't need to accept the job. It's a requirement like any other -- like agreeing to show up each day and perform the various duties of the position. If people want the job badly enough, they'll sign the agreement. If they then break it, that's breaking a contract and is grounds for termination.

      It's really quite simple.

      If that doesn't make sense: just imagine that you have your own company and hire someone. Then you happen to go out to a local bar one night and overhear that employee bad-mouthing you and your business practices. Are you really going to want to keep paying that person, knowing that they're bad-mouthing you and potentially driving away business? Depending on what they were saying, at the very least, I'd confront them about it. If it was serious enough, I'd fire them.