Although it may feel like the internet has been around forever at this point – invented in 1983 – it is still very much in its infancy. Social media is even younger, with Facebook being launched relatively recently in 2004. So, although we may feel like we know it inside and out by now, there are still a lot of new waters to tread. After all, exactly how do you decide what is right and wrong on the internet?
It is an issue that is coming up more and more surrounding social media and business. When is it right for companies to access social media? How do you balance the fine line between connecting to customers and invasion of privacy?
Facebook Blocks Admiral
This week, insurance firm Admiral hit headlines due to a controversial attempt at a new form of policy. It involved young drivers giving the company access to their Facebook page, which they would then assess to deduce their risk factor. From this, they would gain between a 5% and 15% discount. They have been adamant that the assessment would not decrease premiums in a negative way. Despite this, Facebook blocked the scheme entirely.
There are a lot of opinions surrounding this. Some are of the opinion that social media is public; if you put something on there that might impact your life negatively it is your own fault. However, the stance that some – including Facebook – have taken is that everyone has a right to privacy.
Not only that, but Facebook itself is a business. It runs on advertising revenues, being able to target people for the right products because of their posting patterns. If people were to start using their social media to affect real-life concerns such as insurance they might start posting false information.
Instead of posting about F1 and The Fast and the Furious, there would be an abundance of Great British Bake Off posts. In which case, Facebook will start trying to sell a cake to people who would rather have a wrench. It would affect the way they run the social media platform on a fundamental level. For that reason, it is easy to see why Facebook the Business would block such a scheme.
The fact is, though, that marketing on social media is an important part of modern business practice. Companies want to be able to see what their customers think in order to cater to them better. But, how far should this be allowed to go?
What About Employers?
But, businesses have not only come under fire for accessing client’s information in the past. The monitoring of employee’s activity on social media is a contentious question. How far should social media be able to affect your ability to gain a job, or your ability to keep one?
More stories are emerging about people being fired as a result of their social media posts. Of course, some of the stories have involved very inappropriate posts on the employee’s half. Yet, does that give an employer the right to fire them?
This is an argument between the employee’s freedom of speech and right to privacy against an employer’s right to protect the reputation of their company. Both parties have a right to both of these things. Yet, how do you decide who has the better one?
At the end of the day, this isn’t an issue that can be resolved here and now. Social media is constantly evolving; the uses are expanding and one day we may even see it transform into a valid form of identification. The more we use it, the more it moulds itself into everyday life. Thus, the fine line between business and social media may become more distinguished or fainter still.
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