A little social caution

digital footprintWe’ve all shared those water cooler moments of irritation at our managers’ lack of judgement, compassion or competence, when we’ve let vent to whispered whinges that we hope our colleagues won’t pass on and will eventually forget.

But how many of us have considered the implications of doing it online – a sniping email or a heat-of-the-moment Facebook rant?

A new report by GMB reveals that so-called ‘social intelligence monitoring’ of a negative ‘digital footprint’ can have devastating consequences if employers take advantage of a new generation of surveillance software that tracks online social activity. Updated from a 2005 GMB publication, From Workplace Watch To Social Spy: Surveillance In (And By) The Workplace by Professor Michael Blakemore reveals that deeper integration and power of surveillance technologies ensures that surveillance power is staying ahead of the rapid growth in the volume of information generated by increased computing power and software sophistication.

This runs counter to what some said in 2005, when they believed that the sheer volume of information and its distributed nature across many data sources and domains meant that ‘information overload’ was a protection against the information being used coherently.

Paul Campbell, GMB Organiser, said: “There has been a rapid blurring of the boundaries between private and public information. Individuals are leaving a massive digital footprint that can be used against them which will remain in cyberspace forever.

“Employers and employees need to develop protocols for dealing with this vast quantity of information. GMB in this report is giving advice to members as to what to do and not do so that they don’t become a victim of this new ‘Social Spy’ technology.”

GMB’s summary of dos and don’ts show how not to leave a trail of incriminating evidence that could be harvested by an employer using these new surveillance technologies.

GMB’s dos and don’ts of social networking


  • Think carefully before posting anything online.
  • Have a clear understanding of what comments about your work will be tolerated by your employer.
  • Take time to understand the privacy policies and controls for any social networking or blogging site that you use.
  • Use access controls to limit who can see your information – and don’t forget who you have granted most detailed access!
  • Use a separate email address to register with networking and blogging sites – preferably one that does not include your name.
  • Check your privacy settings often. Think about who you allow as friends, and remember who they are.
  • Consider that some people may not be who they say they are.
  • Report users who violate the terms of use for the sites you are on.
  • Be aware of your employer’s policy on the use of electronic communications. You might not be allowed to use sites like Facebook in work hours.
  • Clearly state in your bio that all views are your own personal opinions and not those of your employer.


  • Publish your email address, telephone number or home address.
  • Choose an email address that reveals private information about you.
  • Make public other identifying information, such as your date of birth.