Indian Media Giant's New Policy For Employees: Hand Over Your Social Media Passwords

from the how-not-to-do-it dept

Over the last half a decade, Techdirt has written a number of times about employers seeking the right to ask for the social media passwords of their employees. But a story on the Quartz Web site suggests that India’s largest media conglomerate has gone much further in its demands. In fact, there are two stories on Quartz covering this, posted on consecutive days. Here’s what the first one reported:

Under a contract unveiled to employees last week, Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd — India’s largest media conglomerate and publisher of the Times of India, Economic Times, among many other properties — told staffers they are not to post any news links on their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts. This runs counter to many social-media policies in newsrooms across the world, which often encourage journalists to share content widely.

But BCCL, as the company is known, is telling journalists that they must start a company-authorised account on various social media platforms. They also have the option of converting existing personal social media accounts to company accounts. On these, they are free to discuss news and related material. The company will possess log-in credentials to such accounts and will be free to post any material to the account without journalists’ knowledge. It is now also mandatory to disclose all personal social-media accounts held by the journalist to the company.

This understandably drew wide criticism for being clueless about how social media works, and how companies might try to benefit from it — see, for example, Mathew Ingram’s analysis on Gigaom. This barrage of negative comments coupled with resistance from the journalists affected seems to have forced the company to backtrack quickly — but not much, as the second Quartz story explains:

There are two main changes. An earlier clause that said the company could continue to post updates from an employee’s account even after they leave, has been removed. Secondly, the clause that earlier prohibited an employee from posting news links on her personal social media account has now become more ambivalent. It states:

If you are planning to maintain two user accounts, then the company expects that all content related to your primary role at BCCL should be solely posted on your Company User Account, though it can be re-tweeted/shared from your Personal User Account.

It is not clear whether that means journalists can or cannot post news and related links on their personal account. But they can retweet them off the official accounts. Adding to confusion, the company said it strongly encourages staffers to maintain one account, which by default, becomes the official account.

Moreover:

Like in the previous contract, the company claims unhindered access to all followers/friends of company user accounts. Any future revenue from such accounts shall belong solely to the company.

It remains to be seen whether this slightly amended policy proves more acceptable to BCCL employees, or whether resistance continues and it is changed again. In any case, it’s a reminder that important issues about who “owns” and controls social network accounts used by employees are still largely unresolved many years after the problems first surfaced.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Companies: bccl, bennett coleman and company

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Comments on “Indian Media Giant's New Policy For Employees: Hand Over Your Social Media Passwords”

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51 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This is how and why unions get started.

I have always hated the left vs right over them.

There are here for a reason, the left does not know when to let go of them and right has a problem with embracing when needed.

People actually WANT to screw each other both literally and figuratively, this is not new and why you must understand why you cannot trust your government or your employer to right by ANYTHING! Keep the cuffs on them, or they will put them on YOU!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It may not look like it yet, but it will get there. Yes, I fully understand that both parties agree that everyone needs to be slaves to something, they just disagree on whether it should be through employers (Repukes) or directly by the State itself (Demtards). No matter how you slice the pie Liberty has been completely disregarded and as companies move forward with these “shitty shenanigans” to control your online person you will find political critters arming themselves on the subjects and the political divide will become much clearer. Left will use this to add to the union arsenal and the right will do the usual… not protect people enough where the employer is concerned.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Isn’t that what IP is about? You do all the work and then you turn over all your work to the company so that they can profit from your work exclusively. IP is lobbied for by the distributors and the big companies that want it so that they can use it to scam over the little guy and steal the fruits of her work.

PaulT (profile) says:

“The company will possess log-in credentials to such accounts and will be free to post any material to the account without journalists’ knowledge.”

That’s the killer for me. At a (very big) stretch, I can see the justification for needing access to view an entire account. I certainly would agree with it, but a paranoid boss might feel it’s necessary to check that employees aren’t posting negative or damaging things to private groups, etc. that are blocked or hidden from the employer, or in a secondary account not under their real name. I’d advise any such employee to get the hell out ASAP, but I’d at least see where the employer was coming from.

This, however, indicates that the employer hasn’t got a clue about social media. It’s clear that they see it only as a marketing tool, and don’t understand that people use it to keep in touch with real life friends and family. Even a “standard” news story could be viewed as offensive and have comeback in the employee’s own personal life, and the danger of this increases if the posters get “creative” and try to make something viral. People get angry at their friends for accidentally spamming game invitations, imagine the fallback if someone posted a story that could be seen as personally offensive. it could be something that’s not generally offensive but is taken as such in the wrong context (e.g. a celebrity is injured in a road accident, but a friend died in a recent similar crash and you take a lot of personal grief for the insensitivity of posting at that time). That gets exponentially worse if the post contains a religious or political spin.

Sorry guys, there is a natural separation of personal and professional life and you should not get to control everything. You sure as hell shouldn’t get to annoy and offend friends and family of an employee.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

From Facebook’s terms of service…
Under Safety

You will not solicit login information or access an account belonging to someone else.

Does this mean that Facebook could remove the official Facebook account of any employer demanding the password to an employee’s personal account?

Under Registration and Account Security

You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.

Does this mean that facebook could remove your account if you happen to work for an employer that demands your account passwords?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Only our contracts are binding, all the rest can be ignored

Given FB pretty clearly has rules against this sort of thing, any company that even asks for the passwords to employee, or potential employee accounts is pretty clearly saying that they see nothing wrong with those who work for them violating any contracts they sign or agree to, as long as it benefits the company.

If anything, ‘hand over your password’ questions should be used to weed out those foolish enough to do so, or show who not to hire by exposing those willing to violate contracts whenever it’s personally convenient(because if they are willing to break one contract, what’s to stop them from doing the same with the one you want them to sign?).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Only our contracts are binding, all the rest can be ignored

Rules apply to the common folk, not businesses or power players… you will find that FB would only be over joyed to have companies do this and would most likely even build a management interface to facilitate it all… ya know? for a fee of course.

When money talks… the bullshit indeed walks!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Only our contracts are binding, all the rest can be ignored

“Given FB pretty clearly has rules against this sort of thing”

It’s been a while since I’ve actually looked at them, but there certainly used to be T&Cs saying that you couldn’t sign up for an account under a false name or if you were under the age of 14. I not only know numerous people who use false or altered names (e.g. using a silly fake middle name seems to be popular in some circles), or even multiple accounts, I’m also “friends” with 2 dogs and several inanimate locations. If those rules still apply, they are clearly not really being checked.

Rules might apply – but they only apply if someone’s actually enforcing them. On top of that, if they’re not proactively monitoring accounts for suspicious logins, the only way they’ll find out is when someone complains about the posting on the account. Which will most likely result in the employee having their account blocked, rather than the employer facing any comeback.

“If anything, ‘hand over your password’ questions should be used to weed out those foolish enough to do so, or show who not to hire by exposing those willing to violate contracts whenever it’s personally convenient”

I’d love it if this were likely to be the case rather than further attempts by corporate management to allow themselves to interfere in their employees’ privacy, I really would.

Zimzat (profile) says:

I seem to be the only person who realizes that the company doesn’t want your personal social media account. They want you to have a company-specific account on Twitter in addition to your personal account (for instance).

Let me repeat that: Nothing in here says they are forcing you to turn over your PERSONAL social media account. Seriously.

To me this stance makes perfect sense. I recently worked at a company that used Github to do internal private development. I was given the option of using my personal account but decided to create one linked to my work email. This way when I left I wouldn’t have lingering ties to the company, they wouldn’t be able to mess with my personal account, and they couldn’t say I messed up their stuff after I left since I would no longer have access to that account. No liability for me, no liability for them, and a clean break when the time comes. Win-win.

Some employees did use their personal account (which then exposed their personal information, their personal views, websites, company reputation, etc etc etc).

If the company in the original article wants to specify that what I did is what everyone does, win-win. Clearer separation of work and personal life.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

they must start a company-authorised account on various social media platforms

Employees MUST have the specified social media accounts.

India’s largest media conglomerate and publisher of the Times of India, Economic Times, among many other properties — told staffers they are not to post any news links on their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts

That basically kills off the point of any personal account – and since nearly anything can be defined as news, employees that continue to have a personal account risk being fired for anything they post.

So, with these two items in mind, the company (remember, this is a MEDIA company) is telling it’s employees that they can only post to a company account and they must have one.

Zimzat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Did you read the revision clarification clauses?

They’re only disallowing posts about things that directly relate to the employee role. If you do restaurant reviews for a newspaper then you would be allowed to post links about the California Drought to your personal feeds. You would also be allowed to continue posting things about your family, friends, and newest babies… or the weather. Or whatever that isn’t an official restaurant review. If you did want to talk about a restaurant review on your personal feed then you’d simply post it to the official one and retweet it from the personal one. Seems simple enough and not too restrictive.

Again, not being required to turn over personal social media accounts.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If you do restaurant reviews for a newspaper then you would be allowed to post links about the California Drought to your personal feeds

If you do restaurant reviews for an Indian newspaper, the California Drought may not be your cup of tea. It’s strange how many people have a job in areas that interest them personally. I would guess that the percentage of restaurant reviewers that like food and restaurants is probably pretty high (although I admit, I don’t have statistics in front of me). I would guess that sports editors often like sports, political writers like politics, etc.

I guess people could be thankful that their company requires them to expand their horizons if they want to talk about something on social media, but I would personally tell them to eat a bowl of dicks.

Zimzat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Your words are drastically more intensive than the reality. It’s like saying I’m required to keep my fingernails clipped (let’s assume I’m a surgeon) and so that pretty much eliminates the value of having fingers. Seriously? No.

Most people who are in public-facing positions have disclaimers on personal accounts that their view does not reflect that of their employer. Most won’t even talk about their work on their personal accounts. They still talk about life, their family, new babies, non-work-related news, etc.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Your words are drastically more intensive than the reality”

Well, we can disagree about that, then. My words accurately reflect my opinion on this sort of thing.

“Most won’t even talk about their work on their personal accounts.”

And that’s their choice, but hardly required. In my jobs, I have agreed not to reveal specific things publicly through an NDA. That’s the purpose. If my employer were to say that I couldn’t publicly talk about anything related to my work at all, that’s a pretty major problem.

“They still talk about life, their family, new babies, non-work-related news, etc.”

First, just because they can still talk about some things doesn’t mean that the prohibition is less egregious. Second, last I checked, a person’s work is a pretty major part of their life. To say you can’t talk about work is to say that you can’t talk about an aspect of your life that is as important as family.

I truly have a hard time seeing how this would be considered acceptable by anybody.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“I truly have a hard time seeing how this would be considered acceptable by anybody.”
there you go again, ‘thinking’ like a human bean would do, NOT like a fictitious legal entity with superior rights would do…

zimzat certainly ‘sounds’ indian (gee, a suit at BCCL?), and definitely a hard corps authoritarian… (actually, personally disappointed at the high percentage of indians who are HUGE authoritarians…)

i mean, why would i object if my bosses wanted to make sure all mail to my home address is proper and right, and -you know- not really ‘take over’ my home address, but -you know- just sort of enhance it with company mail too ! ! ! just inspecting my personal mail to make sure its approved, and -you know- deleting mail the company finds offensive and stuff, i mean -really- doing its employees a favor…

geez, what ingrates, why would anybody object to that…

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Most people who are in public-facing positions have disclaimers on personal accounts that their view does not reflect that of their employer

I don’t know about most, but many. Can you guess why? Because their employer hasn’t restricted them from posting things that may agree or conflict with their personal opinions.

The people who agree to the terms in the article don’t actually need this because THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO POST THEIR PERSONAL OPINIONS – they can only post on an official account that will certainly require the posts be reflective of the company’s position.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Many social network sites only allow a person to have one account. Also by having a work related account at which your place-of-employment can post, that means they can force you to endorse whoever and whatever they want. In your name.

I killed (rather, spoiled) my Myspace account because my name and avatar were being used to advertise malware to my friends. I won’t sign up for Facebook for the same reason.

I LOOOOOOVE MY JOB AT FOXCONN. I REALLY love my job at Foxconn. Foxconn is the greatest company and I want to work here forever and ever and ever. I want my KIDS and GRANDKIDS to work at Foxconn? Did I mention Foxconn?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

The other side of the coin

The article touched on this, but I thought it should be reinforced: this policy means that you cannot trust anything in the social media accounts belonging to BCCL publications. Everything appearing in them have effectively become press releases rather than actual information of real interest.

BCCL: This is not how you build a social media presence that is taken seriously.

PaidNews says:

BCCL and Paid News

This media company BCCL is “Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, the country’s largest print media house” that pioneered ‘paid news’ through a “private treaties” business in 2004.

More details are at LiveMint: Regulator calls for ban on paid news and private treaties

Now you know why such a thing might be happening. More on Paid News at Paid News(India) – Wikipedia

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