Career Advice

Who Is Watching You Now? Privacy in the Modern Workplace

Lisa Johnson Posted by Lisa
min read
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When George Orwell wrote 1984, he envisaged a world where 'Big Brother' was watching everything that you do, a world where privacy is nonexistent.  For a man ahead of his time, I rather think that social media would have absolutely terrified him. We don't need to worry about the government spying on us.  Smart phones, social media and an unabated thirst for scandal and gossip means that every day people are posting and sharing all day, every day. Recently, this couple thought it was a very good idea to get up close and personal in the office.  

Sadly, they thought that because the windows were tinted, people couldn't see in (heads up, if it's night time and you have the lights on, tinted windows are not going to hide anything).  If that was not bad enough, their office was directly across the road from a busy pub.  Apparently, the show the couple put on was so good that the band stopped playing, (No point in giving it your all if the punters are all looking out the window, hey?) Even ten years ago, the sight of a couple showing some PDA in the office across the road would have caused hilarity and a bit of a thrill to the pub patrons, but that would be it.  

Now, with smart phone cameras and instant access to social media sites, there is footage of you getting your kit off going viral on the internet before you have even had time to pick your shirt up off the floor. This couple have had a serious lapse of judgement.  Not only for getting naked with the curtains open and the lights on, but because they also did it in the office.  And it will absolutely affect both their careers.  

And not in a good way.

Ignoring whether or not their employer can or will take action against them from an HR point of view, both of these people are about to learn the power of the internet.  And how what happens on the internet stays on the internet.  

Christchurch is a small place, so at some point, the names of the couple will make it onto the web.  

It's almost guaranteed. Then, one day in the future, one or both of them might apply for a new job.  

It may not even be in Christchurch; it could well be Sydney.  

And then things are going to get messy.  

Because more and more companies are undertaking rather in-depth internet searches on potential employees before they offer a job.  What do you think an internet search for these two is going to show?  

Yep, you guessed it: footage of them making what must feel like the worst mistake of their lives right now. Some employers might not be bothered by it, but chances are they will be – after all, this is evidence of what could be construed as a gross misjudgement in the workplace. What is the lesson in this for all of us?

  • When in the office, keep it professional at all times.

  • There is almost no line between private and public. It might be after hours.  You might be doing something that is completely unrelated to your job.  But if what you are doing is publicly available on the internet, then you may well find employers making decisions against you based on that footage.

  • Understand that there are consequences. For this couple, the name of their employer has been detailed in every news article.  I have no doubt that this has caused their employer some embarrassment.  Employers don't like that very much.  Future employers don't like that very much.

This is the point where I am quietly very grateful that I have such a boring, mundane life.  

I am grateful that I am of an age where my 20s happened without the risk of people sharing pictures of me on the internet.  

Thank God nobody had a camera out that time my skirt fell off at a Sydney train station.  

That would have made for some truly terrifying internet footage.