According to the Pew Research Center (2015), 76% of Internet users have at least one social media account. The continuing rise of social media has been adopted by many business institutions as it enables them the opportunity to examine the background of their employees and candidates (Hazelton & Terhorst, 2015). Thus, social media has progressed from checking criminal convictions to exploring the ethical characteristics of an online persona (Vallor, 2015).
Figure 2. Definition of ethics, adapted from Oxford Dictionaries (2017). Self-produced via Canva.
Figure 3. Definition of business ethics from Drushal and German (2011). Self-produced via Canva.
Davison et al., (2012) argues it is unethical for recruiters to make a decision based on someone’s social profile since it may contain private content. Additionally, Maltby (2014) stated that monitoring social media of employees generates unrelated work issues. As a result, it is important to consider an individual’s right to privacy (Abril et al., 2012).
Figure 4. Ethics of social media and privacy. Self-produced via Google Slides.
Regarding privacy, two prominent ethical challenges are raised. The first involves the person’s morality on their online networks, while the second refers to user information that companies track (Lauby, 2012). For instance, Luckwaldt (2014) illustrates how businesses examine social media accounts to police employees’ behaviours. This can induce fear, which supports critique by Kumar (2015), that employees feel anxious due to institutions monitoring their online media. Consequently, people aware of this supervision can feel more self-conscious about their online privacy and profiles (Drexler, 2014).
Figure 5. Examples of privacy invasion. Self-produced via PowToon.
Businesses often overlook the reasons and motivations behind personal social media use, whereby most people use it as a form of expression and communication (Ahn, 2011). Thus, companies may limit that candidate or employee’s use of social media as they have to be attentive of online content (CIPD, 2010). In contrast, Williams (2016) argues that Facebook Messenger ensures privacy, while Debatin et al., (2009) indicates there is a rise in user privacy. These suggestions signify that social media blurs the boundaries between personal and professional life. The ambiguous control companies have over social media and privacy challenges what course of actions to take, without limiting freedom of expression (Cavico et al., 2013).
Countering the Issue
Overall, businesses should fully assess the ethical challenges of using social media to safeguard the company. I believe a social media policy that aligns with a company’s ethics policy should be implemented – this can guide an employee’s use of social media on behalf of the institution while maintaining a degree of personal usage and privacy (IBE, 2011). Such a policy would reduce legal risks, and discourage behaviour that leads to negative consequences (Kaupins & Park, 2010).
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Figure 1. Self-produced from Adobe Photoshop CS5.
Figure 2. Self-produced from Canva.
Figure 3. Self-produced from Canva.
Figure 4. Self-produced from Google Slides.
Figure 5. Self-produced from PowToon.