Social Networking: Is the potential cost worth the rant?

Social networking has provided us with the ability to keep in contact with old friends and relatives, as well as trusted colleagues.  It allows us to share personal and professional information easily, including photos and life events.  While this is wonderfully convenient, it is important to be cautious about what you are actually sharing on social networking.  While everyone knows that sharing photographs of a personal nature is not advisable, you must also be aware of the statements you post.  There is no expectation of privacy on social network sites, such as Facebook.  The golden rule is to avoid putting anything online that could reflect bad on your business or you personally.  You must also be aware that what you post online can actually cost you financially.

In February of 2014, a Facebook posting by his daughter cost Patrick Snay, 69, an $80,000.00 settlement he won in an age-discrimination lawsuit according to the Miami Herald.  The settlement came with a confidentiality agreement prohibiting Snay from disclosing the “terms and existence” of the settlement.  Snay’s daughter, only days after the agreement, posted to 1,200 Facebook friends that “Mama and Pap Snay wond the case against Gulliver.  Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.  SUCK IT.”  As Snay’s daughter was a recent graduate of Gulliver, her posting, in effect, announced to current and former students that Gulliver lost the case with its former headmaster, violating the confidential terms of the settlement, and thus, rendering the settlement void, after an appeal by Gulliver to a Motion to Enforce the Settlement.

It is not just a potential settlement that can be lost through social networking, however.  There have been many stories of people losing their jobs over Facebook postings.  In May of 2013, a Chili’s waitress lost her job when she posted “Stupid cops.  Better hope I’m not their server”, with a picture of Oklahoma County deputies arriving at the restaurant.  The deputies in the photograph had spent five hours of their day volunteering on a funeral procession and the posting cost the restaurant business from the law enforcement community and the waitress her job.  Others have lost their jobs by posting about their bosses or co-workers online.  In May of 2013, a Denver employee was fired for complaining about his working conditions online after a co-worker reported his conduct.

More and more lawsuits are being compromised by postings on Facebook and other social networking sites.  For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident and like to brag on your Facebook page about speeding, that can come back to haunt you later.  Divorce cases frequently bring up social networking posts for purposes of child custody and determining the suitability of one parent.  Deleting a post doesn’t necessarily protect you either.  Through subpoenas and computer forensics, often referred to as “e-discovery”, those posts can still be retrieved and used against you in a Court of law.

The moral – don’t post anything on social media you wouldn’t want the whole world to see.