Big Data Summit 2014: Youth social media oversharing “a real challenge” for workplace data privacy

By Danny Palmer
27 Mar 2014 View Comments
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A young generation brought up with no qualms about sharing absolutely everything on Facebook is presenting a real challenge to data privacy policies in the workplace, says solicitor Robert Bond, head of data protection and information security at law firm Speechly Bircham.

Bond expressed his concerns while speaking as part of a panel discussion about managing privacy and ethics in an age of big data at Computing's Big Data Summit 2014. He used the example of a teenage girl's blasé attitude to sharing confidential information which almost ended in disaster while on work placement at the law firm.

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"Three years ago we had a whole load of 18-year-old summer students in our law firm and they had a few days of sitting in on things including signing of prenuptial agreements or corporate deals or whatever. They all got told that what you see in here goes no further, it's confidential," he said.

However, it seems this message didn't get through to all of the teenagers on the work placement, with one girl in particular very much attached to her iPhone.

"So in the middle of a meeting, one of the young lawyers who was mentoring these 18-year-olds sees a girl using her iPhone under the desk, tapping something, and asks her 'what are you doing?'," Bond continued.

But his intervention had no effect and eventually the mentor had enough and took away the phone - just in the nick of time - as a confidential deal was about to be revealed on social media.

"He takes the iPhone off her and she is about to post on her Facebook wall ‘I'm having a great day, I'm in a meeting with such and such a company, they're just about to go public," Bond said, much to the amusement of the audience.

However, if the girl had posted the information onto the public forum of Facebook, it would have been far from a laughing matter, as Bond explained.

"Fortunately she didn't post it because we would have been in deep trouble, the IPO would have been pulled. She isn't going to get a job with us."

So why did she insist on posting confidential information despite being warned not to? "It's only Facebook" the girl had said, something which Bond described as "trouble".

"We've got a generation that wants to share everything and that's coming into our workplace and that's a real challenge," he concluded.

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