a. Ethical issue: Social media becomes increasingly important nowadays because we can keep in touch with each other. However, it is getting harder and harder to separate our private life from work place because of the prevalence of social media, which leads to an ethical issue: Should an employee’s private social media be used by employers and potential employers?
Online social networks have become the new way in which people can connect to each other. “It is estimated that there will be around 1.82 billion social network users around the globe in 2014, up from 1.47 billion in 2012” (the statistics portal,2014). Facebook, as the leader of social media, currently have over 1.2 billion members (Browser Media,2014). In Australia, there are 13.2 million Facebook users, 2.5 million active Twitter users and 1.6 million active Instagram users in 2014 (cowling,2014). It is clear that using social media has become a trend all over the world.
With such a large number of social media users, and with people more and more relying on social networks, sometimes it is hard to identify what is private life, particularly for those users who are in the workplace. It is becoming an increasingly important question concerning the number of people who have been dismissed over social media postings. This Number is rising and even talented professionals run the risk of dismissal because of what they posted on social networks. For example, Ashley Payne was forced to resign from her teaching job after posting a picture to Facebook. The photograph is of herself holding two glasses of wine at a party, which is totally unrelated to her work (Love,2011). However, even though lots of similar incidents have happened, very few companies will have educational discussions with employees concerning what is acceptable and what is not acceptable with regard to using social media. There are only 23 percent of employers that will give a specific policy to their employees, and the same percentage is reported having no policy on this subject whatsoever. Only 17 percent of workers were issued with informal guidelines and less than 10 percent received social media training (Hollon,2012).
c. Assumptions There are some assumptions which need to be considered when analyzing this ethical issue. Firstly, we must assume that the employer has a valid reason for visiting the private postings of an employee. If the employer is conscientious with regard to the image of his company in the public eye he would be aware that business could be lost by having the public image degraded. He would therefore seek all opportunities to protect that image and make it stronger.
Secondly, we can also assume that the employer has the same valid reason for all his employees. It would be unusual, under the circumstances of his integrity, that he select only one out of possibly many employees.
Thirdly, we can assume that the employer makes periodic checks on all his employees. It seems unlikely that a visit to social media would be a one-off situation.
Fourthly, we must assume that the employee is aware of the media’s policy regarding the use of the media. All social media has policies concerning the use of their particular media, these can be found and read on the media itself.
d. Analyze the ethical issue
As Thiroux et al.(2012,p37) states “Act utilitarianism essentially says that everyone should perform that act which will bring about the greatest amount of good over bad for everyone affected by the act.”
Social Media is, by its nature, available to anyone wishing to access it. A user can access anyone simply by typing in a name, and it is irrelevant whether they be employer or employee. There are no ethics concerned