Social Media: Another In-House Risk Gateway

The enterprise use of social media is gaining more traction.

But with any new corporate trend typically comes added work for in-house counsel. One sign is the inevitable legal conference on the subject, software to help you control it, and when you see that insurers are starting to focus on it.

One of the fun things for in-house counsel is to learn new things fast enough to understand them and act to protect the client. One of the realities for in-house counsel is that there is no way to put many social networking technologies (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) through normal corporate approval channels. Companies are walking a tightrope: they are encouraging employees to “get the word out” while not being able to control it.

Companies are developing policies on the subject, but the challenge is that most social media is a hybrid: part personal, part professional. Should companies undertake to educate employees about the general features and risks of social media? What if they do and it falls short?

One example: I see corporate employees posting about their attendance at industry conferences; this obviously renders public information what was traditionally far more private. Are there consequences if they were encouraged to publicize their attendance?

There are articles like this (10 Things You Should Know About Safer Social Networking) percolating around the web. It’s getting more important because new apps and features of current ones are all about location.

Lawyers can’t be Luddites these days and be effective or relevant. It’s just that it’s getting harder to know what is going on, what it means, and what to do about it.

In the meantime, perhaps a start is to issue one of these to all employees traveling on company business…

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