By Dr. Maria G. Hernandez
Latina Cubicle Confidential™
If you think your web-surfing information, your phone calls, and your texts belong just to you — you are right, only if you are talking about your home computer and your personal smart phone.
But if these devices belong to your employer it may surprise you to learn that the company you work for has the right to collect this information and review it. And if you decide to tell your followers on Twitter or Facebook just how you really feel about your employer, this can be used to terminate you — especially if you signed an agreement about not posting public messages about your employer as a term of employment.
Check the fine print of your hiring agreement — it is usually there.
As the number of Latinos using the internet grows — estimated now to be 78 percent of the population of Latinos — you can anticipate the time you spend surfing the net or sending emails to friends and family will be tracked by employers.
One recent study found that two-thirds of all employers track email, review files and collect web surfing activity of their employees. All this means that more questions will surface about the legality of reviewing an employee’s digital footprint when used to terminate or discipline workers.
When applied equally to all employees, the practice is fair game because the equipment you have at work is not yours. A good source of your rights and the existing policies and practices is available at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
Should you care about the privacy of your digital footprint?
Yes. It is your responsibility to think carefully about what your email, blog posts, chat messages, Tweets, or Facebook updates say about you. Even if you are posting information as yourself, it should matter.
Regardless of your specific job role, the assumptions and inferences people make about you can make or break your career and employers are getting smart about your digital life at work and away from the work.
What’s a savvy Latina to do?
One possibility is to see if your employer is among those who allow you to BYOD — Bring Your Own Device — to work.
If you use your own cell phone for calls or text, that information is yours. Unfortunately, if you access the web at work through the corporate wifi network, there is still the possibility that your messages and texts can be accessed by your corporate IT staff.
Another strategy is to use your computer at work only to log on to your home PC remotely so that all of the sites you visit stay on your home computer registry. At best, you may also choose to work only for those employers where there is no digital tracking policy taking place.
To be truly safe though, it is in your best interest to keep your digital footprint at work solely focused on work-related activity. If you need to answer a family member’s email or text, do so only from your own personal smart phone.
Let your family and friends know that while you’re at work, you will stay focused on work — in time you will discourage them from sending personal emails during the day. Don’t give out your workplace email to friends and family where they might accidentally include you in a chain email that can be embarrassing to see at your desk.
Keeping your inbox free of distractions will go a long way to help you avoid having employers question your productivity and professionalism.
Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. For more information, visit Latina Cubicle Confidential™ on Facebook or on Twitter @SavvyLatinaInfo.