Social Networking & Online Forums
The UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has published new guidance on the application of the Data Protection Act (the Act) to the use of social networking for domestic and business purposes. There is a clear distinction between the two since use for domestic purposes i.e. personal data that is processed by an individual for the purposes of their personal, family or household affairs is exempt from the provisions of the Act.
Where however social networks and online forums are used for business purposes then that use is subject to the Act in the normal way. When an organisation, or individual acting for non-domestic purposes, posts personal data on a social networking site, message board or blog, they will need to ensure that they have complied with the Act. The same applies if they download personal data from a social networking site and use it for non-domestic purposes.
The ICO's full guidance contains lots of practical examples which staff may find helpful in determining whether or not their online forum is being used for a domestic purpose and aims generally to help those using social networking in the course of their employment to understand their obligations and promote good practice. Where staff are satisfied that they are using social networking for academic or business purposes then they can refer to this extract of the guidance for information.
Twitter - the legal perils and pitfalls
Twitter is increasingly used to engage with colleagues, students or customers in a quick and effective way but you should be aware of the legal line which may be crossed in using this social medium. This guide to the legal issues sets out what you need to know: BBC Magazine article
Online Safety - what precautions can I take to keep my personal data secure online?
Organisations that collect and use individuals' information have responsibilities under the Data Protection Act to protect it but how can you keep your personal data safe when conducting your personal affairs online? The UK Information Commissioner comments that "more and more people are conducting their personal affairs online e.g. shopping, social networking, job hunting and the ability to carry out official functions, such as renewing car tax or contacting local councils and government departments online, are now an everyday part of life. Doing things online can offer convenience and widen opportunities and in general people value it.
However, you can take various precautions to protect yourself from identity fraud or the misuse of your information, or to ensure that your privacy is respected in the way you would want."
See the UK ICO's guide on 'Online Safety' for more information.
Social Media Policy for Staff
Human Resources have developed a policy for all staff and third parties working for or on behalf of the University; including casual, agency and associate workers, who have access to the University’s electronic communication systems and equipment. The policy is available here.
'Facing up to Facebook'
FE and HE institutions are increasingly using Facebook to engage with learners for educational purposes, e.g. a lecturer setting up a Facebook group with students. All staff must be aware that where institutional network systems are used there are a number of safeguards, procedures and support mechanisms which must be put in place to ensure safe, accessible and appropriate usage. This includes procedures to handle incidents of unacceptable Facebook usage, which could range from simple offensive behaviour to behaviour that is considered criminal in nature, such as racist abuse. JISC Legal have published a Guide for FE and HE institutions on the wide range of issues to be considered.
Use a Smartphone?
Here’s someguidance from the UK Information Commissioner on keeping your device secure.