“Making the world more open and connected” is the mantra trumpeted by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as the key aim behind his social networking giant.
And isn’t that a nice, fluffy idea?
Well, it is, so long as you know exactly who you are being open and connected with. And as one lowly ex-employee recently found: most of the time, you don’t.
Samuel Crisp is a genius. Or, more accurately, he was, until he got sacked from Apple’s ‘Genius Bar’ (that’s the repair shop to you and I) in Norwich for behaving like something of an iFool on his iPhone.
Yes, Mr Crisp took to Facebook to vent some rage against an app on his handset that had messed up (not the exact words used) the phone’s time zones.
He also poked fun at the tagline that was used by Apple to launch the Beatles' back catalogue: “Tomorrow is another day that’ you’ll never forget” by posting “tomorrow’s just another day that hopefully I’ll forget”.
After being shown the door by Apple, Mr Crisp appealed to an employment tribunal about his sacking. He contended that the remarks were private and hence should not have impacted on his employment.
However the tribunal sided with Apple and said that the comments could have easily been passed on without any control from Mr Crisp.
The tribunal also heard that the ex-Apple employee had become disgruntled with the company after missing out on a transfer to the United States.
Social media policy
Part of the reason why Apple was able to dispatch the loose-lipped worker so easily was that it had written in social media guidelines that all employees had to abide by.
In a copy of the document leaked to the magazine PC World, the company states that if you identify yourself as an Apple employee you “should ensure that content associated with you is consistent with Apple policies”.
It goes on to say that all Apple workers should comply with the company’s business conduct policy on threat of disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment”.
A guideline Samuel Crisp now knows all too well.
Employment disputes surrounding comments posted online have become more common over the last few years. And they don’t necessarily have to be of a direct ‘spleen venting against your employer’ nature to result in a sacking.
Personal insults against colleagues and unsavoury or ill-timed status updates and photos could also land you a booking at the job centre.
Yes, you may have thoroughly enjoyed your boozy weekend away with the lads – but there’s no need for the world to see you drinking tequila from an armpit, is there?
Job hunters beware
You should be even more cautious with your online identity if you’re currently on the job hunt. Almost half of employers reportedly check the Facebook accounts of applicants as part of the recruitment process.
So if you’ve just come out of university and are looking for a job, it’s probably best to give your online persona something of a face-lift before sending off any CVs.
But rude and insulting comments and aren’t the only things you should avoid putting online.
Nothing says ‘come and burgle my empty house while I’m away’ like an excited status update boasting of a looming holiday.
If you do want all of your mates to know about your plush trip to New York, for goodness sake wait until you get back to brag about it.
But even then, try not to include any photos of the brand new laptop or iPad you brought back with you. There’s no need to give criminals a shopping list for your home now, is there?
Indeed, the fact that so many of us are posting this potentially risky info online has got insurers worried, with warnings that it may lead to higher premiums.
[See also: Why Facebook means your bills will rise]
Photos and location data
Sharing photos is a key part of any social networker's online life. However, be careful which snaps you upload. As I mentioned earlier, embarrassing shots could land you in trouble with your employer.
But overly detailed and extensive photos of your home can also provide something of a road map for a robbery if accessed by the wrong person.
You should also be careful when using location-based applications. Facebook Places may allow you to check in with your flatmates at a pricey restaurant and show the world what a sophisticated palette you have, but it also lets burglars know that your property is empty.
Obvious stuff really. Never, ever put your address, telephone number, birth date and place, mother's maiden name or any other personal information online.
On an obvious level this information can be used to locate your home and target you with phone, text and mail fraud or spam.
But further to this, many will use personal information as passwords for online accounts. Yet this information stops being so personal if you broadcast it to the world through your Facebook account. So don’t do it!
In fact, you shouldn’t be using personal information as passwords anyway.
An example. Last week the credit card of my somewhat techno-phobic parents was charged £130 for an Amazon gift voucher. How? Someone had mysteriously hacked into their Amazon account by cracking its cryptic password. And this unbreakable key word was… the home postcode.
Mind your privates
In addition to taking care over what you put online, it’s also worth keeping a firm grip on who exactly can access your information. You can do this by cranking up the privacy settings on any sites you use.
For example, Facebook asks that you specify which online groups can see what information of yours. For me, this option is set firmly to ‘friends only’. This means that only users that I agree to ‘befriend’ can get hold of the sparse collection of information on my profile.
From here, you just need to ensure that you never accept friend requests from strangers.
A just sacking?
Should Mr Crisp have been sacked for bashing Apple on Facebook?
Have your say using the comment box below.
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