In the last several years, social media has evolved from a geek’s toy to interact and connect with each other to a global phenomenon in which individuals and organizations of all types engage for business purposes. For purposes of this paper, however, the scope, including the case law cited, will be focused on the United States. Social media is a general term which refers to the use of Web-based and mobile technologies to turn communications between individuals and groups into interactive dialogues.
These interactive communications are usually through such social networks as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ but can also be through industry blogs, group chat rooms, and corporate-run internal sites such as Jive and IBM Connections.
Employees from all types of organizations, whether private or public sector, regulated or unregulated, are communicating via social media channels to conduct business, exchange information, and perform research. In many instances, these employees, depending on from where they are communicating, may have regulatory responsibilities to capture those communications and archive them for some period of time.
For example, certain financial firms have very specific regulations prescribing what communications must be captured and how those communications must be stored and for how long. Similarly, some US states have now issued specific requirements for insurance organizations with regard to social media. Employees of government agencies may also have legal requirements to capture and archive specific communications based on Freedom of Information Act or Open Document laws requiring that all business-related content generated by government organizations be captured and made available to citizens, if asked. But, social media content and actions often extend beyond regulatory agency inquiries.
The Changing Legal Landscape Around Social Networks