Social media is an important way for people to connect with others and build up social networks today. Since social media platforms encourage self-disclosure, employers may use social media to gather information about their appicants or employees to assess their personality traits, evaluate their suitability, and conduct background checks. However, social media also blurs the boundaries between employees’ private lives and work, this may lead to excessive monitoring and therefore infringe on the privacy of employees. Hence, this thesis focuses on how workers can prevent employers’ monitoring in advance or claim compensation afterwards.
Since the United States attempted to legislate law to deal with social media privacy issues in the workplace over a decade ago, this thesis focuses on relevant US laws and regulations. Constitution, statutes, and common law of the United States are unable to address social media monitoring thoroughly. Thus, several states have enacted password protection law to safeguard workers’ social media privacy. These statutes not only prohibit employers from requesting employees or applicants to provide social media login information, but some of them also even restrict employers from demanding workers to alter their social media privacy settings, adding employers as friends, or accessing private groups in social media. Nonetheless, these statutes include exceptions that allow employers to conduct monitoring under certain circumstances. In terms of legal remedies, most states provide workers the right to seek civil compensation, but there are states where workers are not granted any remedial rights, which may lower employers’ incentives to obey the law.
This thesis further examines workplace privacy protection in Taiwan and finds that existing regulations fail to provide enough protection for workers. Besides, there are still cases where workers’ expectations of privacy are completely excluded if employers have obtained workers’ consent beforehand, without considering the unequal relations between employer and employees.
In sum, state laws in the United States can deal with common social media monitoring methods, making them valuable references for Taiwan. Competent authorities in Taiwan can refer to the aforementioned password protection laws to provide detailed explanations about what employers may do when they use social media as means of surveillance. This thesis also provides some recommendations for employers to conduct workplace surveillance properly and write effective social media monitoring policies, trying to strike a balance between workers’ privacy and employers’ legitimate interests.