Can Your Employer Monitor Your Social Media?

by Sarah Stasik
Business people watching a live streaming. Social media concept.

Can employers monitor employees' social media profiles? Your gut reaction might be a resounding "no," in part because we're conditioned today to protect our privacy online.

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However, your social media activity is not the same as your credit card use or personal health information, and it doesn't get the same treatment under the law.

Can an Employer Search the Social Media of Prospective Hires?

Hiring organizations conduct a variety of background checks, and sometimes, that includes Googling a person to see what information pops up. Any information in the public arena is fair game in such a background check, and that includes any public social media profiles. A prospective employer could review information on Facebook, Instagram, X, Threads, TikTok, LinkedIn or any other social media platform you take part in, and there's no legal reason why they can't.

Employers and hiring managers increasingly include social media profile reviews in their hiring processes. Often, this look into your social media life helps an employer decide if you seem like a good cultural fit for their company. At a minimum, it helps them determine if you're engaging in any activity that might reflect badly on their brand.

Can Employers See Your Social Media If It's Private?

One way to keep an employer or potential employer from seeing your posts is to set your profile to private on platforms like Instagram or Facebook. This way, employers or their representatives can only see your posts if you accept them as followers or friend them.

It's important to note, however, that if you're tagged in a post or you tag someone else in a post, their friends and followers may be able to see that information. You may need to be vigilant if you want to keep all your social media information as private as possible.

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Is It Legal for Your Employer to Monitor Your Social Media?

Your current employer can also check your social media regularly. In fact, some employers have policies about how you should behave on social media. For example, an employer may have policies that say employees shouldn't conduct themselves on social media in any way that appears to be illegal or that they can't discuss trade secrets or disparage the employer brand on social media.

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Can My Employer Check My Social Media as Part of an HR Investigation?

Your employer can check your social media activity at any time, including during the course of an HR investigation. In fact, your social media activity could be an important consideration in certain HR investigations.

For example, if you aren't meeting production quotas at your job and your supervisor believes you're playing on your phone too much, they may make a complaint about this. If an investigation into your social media profiles shows many posts, comments and other activities during your work hours, that may corroborate your supervisor's claims and result in disciplinary action.

Can My Employer Monitor Internet Activity?

Your employer can actually monitor all your internet activity to a fairly deep level, assuming you're using hardware, software or networks provided by the employer. This can include capturing URLs you visit, activities you take on pages and how long you spend online or on certain pages or platforms.

For example, if you're using a laptop, computer or mobile device provided by your employer, you have no expectation of any privacy when you're online. You may want to avoid using these types of devices for any activity you don't want your employer to know about.

The same is true if you're using a device you provided but connecting to the internet via public Wi-Fi or an employer-provided network. In these cases, employers may also track information such as ISPs, URLs and the time you spend on various pages.

Ultimately, your best bet when using employer-provided technology is to understand the policies surrounding these technologies and stick to them.

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