I read a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald that reported Australian companies are actively spying on staff who use social media sites like Facebook and MySpace through a Sydney-based company called SR7, which specialises in online risk and reputation analysis.
Companies are following a trend of asking third-party firms to investigate and ‘tail’ employees as well as former employees online rants and Twits, for any conversations that would ultimately hurt their brand and corporate images. While one would think that since the employees are themselves publicising their thoughts and therefore they should forego any protection of privacy, I don’t think that is a fair notion for this situation.
I would consider this act to be a heinously unethical act, parallel with a company hiring a private ‘eye’ to spy on you while you talk to your mates in a pub, in public.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think SR7 is doing anything wrong, they are a company that are doing the job they are hired for, and the idea of using them for marketing purposes, scouring the world wide social media network is a really hip idea, I think the onus is on the original company that hired this gun to place more trust on employees.
If this is a trend that will continue and more companies will become paranoid, we could see a situation in which the social media sites become more closed, from a technical perspective and not allow third-party applications to access their data, which could be used to data mine information on certain users, in an unethical manner.
What are your thoughts?