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There was an interesting court case that took place back in 2010. The case involved an employee who was injured on the job and sued the employer.

A few years later, the employer wanted to see how the employee’s quality of life was affected, and they requested access to the employee’s social media pages. The employee objected, asserting the right to privacy, and subsequently deleted many photos from the social media account.

I read about this case in a legal publication, and while it seems fascinating from that perspective, it raises an equally important question in non-legal environments; what is the new privacy paradigm?

It would seem that many of our friends and family have become very comfortable with the privacy settings offered by many of the social media sites. Settings that enable who can see various pieces of information, as well as whether others may comment are easily adjusted.

If we compare this to the physical world, when a person comes into your home, you have the ability to show them the embarrassing photos of your awkward teenage years, or to keep those safely hidden.

It is possible that the safe distance of the internet is the reason such candid disclosure is allowed. The inability to see a friend’s immediate shocked response dissipates any embarrassment. The general language of the internet (LOL, and OMG) also lessens the pain.

However, as in the case of the employee who removed the photos when the employer wanted access – when the distance between the internet and real world becomes shortened by a legal request – the required level of privacy is raised to its pre-internet level. By then, it is too late.

One site that offers excellent step-by-step instructions about better protecting privacy on Facebook is If you follow the instructions offered for your Facebook account, you can then proceed to apply the same privacy settings with all of your other social accounts.

It is worth noting that in many instances, a social media site may notify you if a demand has been made for your information, and while many of the sites that we all use have become more aggressive at protecting information, they are under no obligation to do so.

Of course, the best advice that we can impart to protect the privacy of our friends and family is to impress upon them the value of simply resisting the urge to post everything in life.

Perhaps the case of the employer and employee can be used to remind our friends and family that no matter how refined the privacy settings, once information is posted, it is ultimately placed in someone else’s control. That level of control is something no one should give up.


bob covelloAbout the Author: Bob Covello (@BobCovello) is a 20-year technology veteran and InfoSec analyst with a passion for security topics. He is also a volunteer for various organizations focused on advocating for and advising others about staying safe and secure online.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.

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