Post 5-The Legal Risks

Dear Readers,

Well, I warned you-it’s time for your second dose of The Lyons Den for the week . This weeks post is about the legal risks to organisations and businesses who have an online presence.

Anyhoo, while I try to keep this post shorter than the last enchanting tale I shall outline the risks faced by organisations and businesses who have an online presence and then try to provide an example of these risks (and the strategies in place to try and minimise them) in practice in the real world using an example that is close to my heart…….my employer.

So, some of the risks that face those corporate types who have an online presence include:

  • Reputational risks-a damaged reputation.
  • Loss of confidentiality-ever seen a photo of a car that hasnt been released yet, that has apparently been “leaked”? Well in most cases there is some company employee behind it all who, as a result, gets his or her eyes gauged out, his or her knee caps smashed and his or her head kicked in. In the worst cases, these people have even been known to lose their jobs…….
  • Technological risks. Every time you open the window, the bad smell is going to come in and in this case, those who have an online presence can leave themselves open to increased instances of viruses and malware.
  • Breaches of trademarks, copyrights, privacy and even defamation.
  • There are even instances where some poor sod is wrongfully dismissed.

There are a number of others, and perhaps I could go into greater detail but if this were a novel, the words “thicker than war and peace” come to mind…..

So, where in the real world have I see this in action. Well, rather surprisingly, a number of these risks are applicable to my current employer. I work for an organisation which panders to the educational needs of some 20,000+ students and is diligently serviced by some 2000+ staff (I’m not going to have a go at my fellow colleagues am I?). For those that know me, my use of the phrase “the real world” is a hint to where I work.

The oragnisation has a significant online presence including, for the purposes of this blog, a large corporate website and student/staff “gateway” and even a Twitter account used to broadcast information to the outside world in a short but sweet format (a service that, in my eyes, is currently underused). You can even send emails to the organisation from outside and connect to the local network from the comfort of a recliner rocker. All of these services are in place to facilitate and allow easier communication to and from the university relating to certain areas, provide staff and students with up to the minute information on things that affect them and to allow staff and students to do more stuff more of the time

As a result, the organisation (I’m doing well not to mention a name) faces the a high instance of exposure to viruses and malware with email coming in and out and network connections being made, loss of confidentiality and every time a new tweet is posted, a risk to the reputation of the organisation. The last one is less likely to occur as, luckily, the task is not yet placed in the hands of the “slow not stupid” such as I.

Luckily, all of the above scenarios are mitigated in some way:

  • Login details must be provided to prove the person trying to gain access to contact details that must be kept hidden is in fact someone who is allowed to view the information.
  • Tweeting is very strictly controlled by only being tasked to certain individuals with the expectation that spelling and grammar is absolutely flawless and language is kept relevant.
  • Email is very strictly checked and only certain file types are allowed to be sent/received and even then they must be within certain sizes to allow them to be sent/received. Additionally, only certain files are allowed to be stored on IT infrastructure under certain circumstances.

This post has well and truly gone on log enough so my final thought on this is that while I’m not sure about whether there is strictly a social media and communication policy in operation, all of these issues are well known to staff and students and are documented in some way or form. This in turn is very heavily emphasised to all who interact with it. So while there may not be any defined social media policy, in which all of these mediums and issues should be addressed (particularly relating to tweeting, which is only done to a very low level and even then is the only form of social media used…….for the moment……..watch this space……) my organisation is doing ok……..

Well, for a week or so, thats a wrap πŸ™‚

This weeks notable references:





5 Responses to “Post 5-The Legal Risks”

  1. 03/09/2011 at 9:18 am

    That’s interesting, Joe. Never knew ‘that organisation’ had those policies in place. In reply to the question you pose, it does not seem like ‘that organisation’ has a social media policy in regards to tutors and lecturers adding students as friends on social media sites. I noticed you left a comment on my post, Legal Risks of 2.0, I really do think you should ask your employer about establishing a social media policy. A nice post πŸ™‚

  2. 03/09/2011 at 9:27 am

    Thanks Daniel. You raise an interesting point about students and tutors/lecturers becoming FB friends and the like. Its interesting to note that this semester the subject has come up and is often raised though quickly discouraged by my tutors/lecturers. I have worked in the education sector before and am aware that in QLD, for school students and their teachers at least, teachers are NOT allowed to add students as friends on social networking sites by law. I’m not sure whether this extends to university staff. There is no such law regarding this in NSW (where I worked). Thanks for your feedback!

  3. 04/09/2011 at 12:49 pm

    Thats a very informative post from a company thats actually taken good steps to reduce the odds of confidentiality and reputation being damaged from social media services. if only more copany’s did that before they venture into social media.

  4. 12/10/2011 at 10:26 pm

    i love reading your posts, they are entertaining yet at the same time informative πŸ™‚ you raised some interesting points, with the whole teacher/student facebook adding, im assuming that would only last while they were at school… as for uni related that would be harder to monitor as you may have known the person before you took a class that they happened to teach. if there were guide lines for this they would be very flexible i feel.

    comments would be greatly appreciated back πŸ™‚

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