The Politics of Social Media, Literally… (PART 2)

After thinking some more about this topic over the weekend I think I need to make the differentiation between politicians and government agencies a bit clearer. The people I was intending to base the discussion around was the government agencies themselves not so much the politicians however since all we have heard about this last couple weeks is the federal election it seemed fitting to mention that they too are embracing the technology.

As for government agencies there are so many that come under this banner. From  Education QLD to the QLD police there is a huge variety of areas these organisations are involved in but the one that interests me the most is QLD Health. QLD Health is the governing body for anything concerning the health of QLD citizens. This means your local GP, our hospitals, restaurants and even your employers work environment you so enjoy each day. But what legal risks are posed by the staff in this department utilising social networking?

One of the biggest concerns in the health industry is the upholding of doctor patient confidentially. By this I mean that any medical records are confidential. Now what happens if nurse Susan @replies nurse Joanne “Wow Mr Baggins bowel cancer makes him stink like a something!”  This statement straight away poses multiple legal risks such as:

  • Confidential information disclosure
  • Breach of privacy
  • Potential Discrimination

Now although I would like to think that most nurses are compassionate people but we are all human and humans are judgmental creatures so lets break it down. By stating Mr Baggins has bowel cancer she has breached his privacy by not only naming him but also information regarding his condition. By putting a negative connotation with his condition regarding his hygiene could lead to discrimination by other staffers or any of Susan’s followers.

Now as for the associated risks for the hospital. As with most avid Twitter users with the exception of myself, Susan probably has a Facebook. This would mist likely say that she works for the Shady Acres Hospital which is a QLD Health run institution. So straight away this poses a potential reputation risk to the hospital as it paints their nursing staff in a bad light.

At the end of the day Susan should not be tweeting about patients. But then again if she were to tweet “I dont know if i can be bothered sterilizing these instruments Im clocking off in 5.” it’s creating a negative perspective on both her ethical practises and the quality of her work.

QLD Health suffers enough scrutiny from the public with everything they do and their reputation is vital to the publics piece of mind. The Dr Patel case recently has shown their zero tolerance stance on misconduct or improper work habits. Now I know his was a case of medical negligence but the enthusiasm and ferocity with which they pursued showed the public that they are serious about what they do. If any one of their employees were to make an inference contrary to QLD Healths  policy im sure their jobs would be pursued the same way.

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The Politics of Social Media, Literally… (PART ONE)

Social media has rapidly risen to the advertising method of choice for many groups and organisations for its ease of distribution and cost effectiveness. With the general publics growing Facebook addiction and Twitter mentality it’s no wonder that the biggest publicity whores of all, politicians have jumped on the band wagon. I think the first instance of this in Australia at least that I can recall is the Labor party using YouTube to promote good old Kevin 07. This also extended to Kevi’s Myspace and Facebook fan pages which have now become the norm for all pollies so it seems.

This current campaign is no exception with Julia Gillard Tweeting several times a day. This of course is not to be outdone by her best mate Tony Abbots incessant propaganda machine. However as much as I hate to say it QLD Premier Anna Bligh’s twitters actually seem to be written by a human and contain words like “sex” and “move on brother”. I guess when your jobs not under threat you can trash talk all you like!

But the point to all this is what are the legal risks and ramifications associated with not just the pollies using these tools but the use of any social media within the government and government agencies? With topics like the National Broadband Network at the top of the electoral issues its obvious that the government is making its best efforts to keep Australia moving forward in the technology stakes; unless of course you believe Tony’s POV. However there is no better way for them to demonstrate their commitment then to be seen using technology and at least pretend they have some understanding. Despite Steven Conroys obvious lack of understanding their intentions are good.

Now to try and get back on topic and not voice my political opinions any further! These public figures are taking full advantage of applications like Twitter and Facebook to interact with their public in an attempt to personalise their positions. This in itself does not pose any risks as such but what happens when a backbencher Tweets something that doesnt appear to be pro their party? Does this constitute as Malcom Burrows puts it,  “Damaging the employers interest and is the conduct incompatible with the employees duty and an employee.”

In the case of politions the unfair dismissal laws are more or less non existant, as I dont think they are actually employed as such. Rather they can be voted out of the party by the other members. This would certainly be a different dynamic in the workplace…

So Much to Gain, and so much to LOSE!

Like every aspect of business there are always risks, and rewards. Weather we keep it how it is as it seems to be working ok, or do we throw the dice and hope for a seven? Do we stay static in the way we conduct business or do we acknowledge the world is changing and jump on board? Citrix being a technology provider this was not so much as obvious choice but a natural progression. Providing its workers with a space to share experiences and ask questions resulted in a hyper connected and motivated global team that can collaborate with more than just the person in the cubicle next to them.

This however was somewhat of a gamble for them as it would be for any company. Weighing up the associated risks against the potential benefits and ultimately putting a $ value on that. Not just that but every benefit has a risk sporting the same name. You say: “We can share knowledge” and the accountant says: “But who’s controlling it?” Yes its good to have this knowledge out there in cyberspace for all of your workforce to access but how much money are you investing on the necessary measures to keep of this potentially sensitive material safe?

You say: “An increased web presence will boost our reputation.” Then your PR department says: “This opens us up to abuse of the system from both existing and former disgruntled staff.” Tools like Twitter and Facebook fan pages are great, cheap and effective forms of advertising but are generally conducted by a corporate suit with the companies best interests at heart. Facebook in my opinion has NO place in a professional environment and WILL be counter productive. There are tools available like IBM’s SocialBlue that i touched on last week that provide a walled garden for corporate social interactions.

You say: “If we can all chat and socialize then we can build stronger working relationships.” And the CIO says: “How much of that chatting and socializing is going to be work related?” Yes these tools provide a means of collaboration and networking like no other but is it wise to employ web-based mainstream applications? Microsoft’s Sharepoint provides the document collaboration tools that companies need but seriously lacks in the knowledge sharing department.

For these tools to be successful the kind of workforce you employ needs to be assessed and the kind of work ethic your trying to promote. There is a lot of potential benefits to be gained from employing these techniques but as with anything in industry buyer beware. Last weeks INB346 lecture outlined that your reputation and attractiveness as employer by being innovative will attract younger staff but will a Facebook crazed 19yr old be more beneficial to your team then a 54yr old industry veteran that sees this for what it is? So much to gain and yet, so much to lose.