Social Networks for Official, Commercial & Employment Transactions
By law, employers generally need to keep records of employment decisions. So when the boss conveys a pink slip by way of Facebook, the employer needs a legal record of it.
What? Fire someone by Facebook . . . a posting on a wall? Would a manager do that? Yes. A spa in Canada (British Columbia) used Facebook to notify Crystal Bell of her job termination.
The history of electronic messaging tells a story about business records. As each new form of message comes along, we initially doubt you can conduct business with such a flimsy thing. Fax as a medium for transacting serious business? No way, people thought in the early 1980s. But as time passed –- and as court cases enforced fax contracts -- we grew more comfortable with fax as a business tool. Today, fax is considered a responsible, even conservative medium for transmitting signed agreements and binding business records.
Then, when electronic mail came into the workplace, conventional wisdom dismissed it. Convention said e-mail was not a business record, said it could not (conveniently) be authenticated with a signature, and said it should be deleted quickly like so much water-cooler chitchat. But naturally business people embraced e-mail as a tool for making obligations and delegating authority. Today we see the law giving enterprises growing reason to store e-mail as business records.
I predict the same process will unfold for collaborative (Web 2.0 and social network) media like instant message, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. Old-fashioned folks will try to ban these technologies as methods for conducting important business. They will, initially, ignore them as records to be kept.
But the outcome of the story is inevitable. Busy people (like the boss in BC) will use the new channels to hire, fire, negotiate, agree and so on.
The managers of records need to plan for capturing the records of Web 2.0. Those records can become the subject of a subpoena, an IRS taxpayer audit, an administrative summons or an internal investigation or the source of exculpatory evidence in defense of lawsuits.