With stories left and right in the news about people getting fired and even experiencing more serious legal ramifications due to Facebook (and other social media) activity, you can imagine how a story on the local news this weekend made me think twice about how Google might amplify situations like this in the future once the content is made even more public/searchable.
Just “Google it”
According to Google, they now intend to expand their search engine’s reach to include comments made on Facebook and other social networking sites. In the past, these social networking sites did not make their content easily readable by Google’s crawlers due to the back-end programming interfaces limiting the accessibility of ‘grabbing’ the information. Now, however, Google will not only be able to read the content but will also index it, thus making it possible to search for content posted to social media sites directly from their search engine. You can limit (for now) what’s collected by Google based on your privacy settings within Facebook, but it’s worth considering that there is no guarantee in the future that the information Google has access to will be limited to public only information. You’ll have enough granularity in the near term that will allow an individual’s history of comments to be recalled by Google with a click. If that doesn’t make you think twice about what you or your employees are posting, it should.
I’m constantly talking with corporate and legal executives whose concerns are also centered on retention schedules for social media content generated. How long should Tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media records be retained? I don’t know, but I can say that I’m certainly not convinced that social media content should be treated like other records in the past where retention schedules were more cut and dry. It’s such a new form of communication and the question to consider now is (especially since Google will have the information) – why would you ever delete it?
Courts are still trying to wrap their arms around how it can/should be used in legal matters, thus applying old retention logic to something so progressive is somewhat dangerous. What’s to say that once you’ve deleted the information from your archive that the other side won’t show up to court with the records you no longer have? Just because you delete it to avoid having to produce the records doesn’t mean the data isn’t still out there and accessible for the other side to attain. Now that Google will make social media, namely Facebook, information more easily searchable and somewhat permanent, you may want to consider reviewing your social media policy as well as considering that what you post may soon be “Google-able”.