Facebook posts, tweets and YouTube videos may seem to have a short shelf-life, but often they are nearly impossible to erase and can have a major impact on people's careers.
While some posts may seem harmless or funny at the time, they could put people in trouble with their school or job. And now, some employers are firing people for their Facebook posts.
"We're acting our lives out online without thinking of the implications," Lori Andrews, author of I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did.
Andrews said these days not much is truly private, with 75 percent of employers requiring their human resources officials to look at workers' social network profile before they offer someone a job.
Columbia attorney Chuck Thompson said employers often keep looking. He cited the example of someone who was offered a job at Cisco and tweeted, "Cisco just offered me a job now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work."
"One of his followers on Twitter was a Cisco employee and reported it to the hiring manager and the offer was revoked," Thompson said.
Thompson said not every case is cut and dry. It can depend on whether you work for the government or a private company, and there is more protection if you post something and open it up to comments.
"If that involves a discussion with other workers or is even just an invitation to other workers, hey let's discuss this, then that's generally going to be protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act," Thompson said.
And Andrews said she believes what we write or post should be better protected by the law.
"If a cop wanted to enter my home, he'd need a warrant. If my boss wanted to crash a party I was having, he would be guilty of trespass, and yet we allow our future employers and employers to look at our social network page," Andrews said.
She said right now, there are a few state and federal laws to protect people. Workers could end up with a legal fight on their hands if they lose a job for an online post.
Andrews' advice is to protect yourself.
"You have to be conscious of what you're posting," she said.
Some states have laws that say anything that is legal an employee does off duty cannot be used against them in their employment. However, most states including South Carolina do not have that law.
Andrews said people should use the highest privacy setting possible on Facebook, to not let friends tag them in photos without permission and know that a third of the time, employers turn potential hires down for something they found online.
And even if something is deleted, there are companies that save the past seven years of Facebook pages and market them to employers.
For employers, the laws are changing and Thompson said they should always consult an attorney before making a decision on an employee's status because of what they posted online.
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